Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance (MassMutual) is extending its partnership with the University of Vermont’s (UVM) Complex Systems Center with $5m in funding to further advance study and research in the field of data science and analytics.


Image: Rendering of the MassMutual Center of Excellence for Complex Systems and Data Science. Photo: courtesy of UVM.

The funding, to be provided over five years beginning in 2019, will include the establishment of the MassMutual Center of Excellence for Complex Systems and Data Science, which will initiate research projects and programs aimed at better understanding human wellness through data analytics, as well as programming to cultivate a strong pipeline of data science talent.

MassMutual chairman, president and CEO Roger Crandall said: “This new center will provide students with the opportunity to gain deeper insights into data assets, publish their findings, and ultimately identify trends in health and wellness to help people live healthier lives.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with UVM to foster greater talent in the data science field and working together to find new ways to harness the power of data to make a positive impact on our world.”

In addition to the establishment of the center, the expanded partnership between MassMutual and UVM includes the creation of a paid MassMutual fellowship for Ph.D. students, a visualization data artist-in-residence program for early career data scientists, and funding for research and mentorship programs for undergraduate, postgraduate and Ph.D. students.

The initial research projects that will be conducted at the MassMutual Center of Excellence include study in the following areas:

Longevity and wellness, including the link between physical and financial health and environmental impacts on wellness.

Algorithmic fairness, accountability and transparency, which will encompass alternative underwriting data, methods for controlling bias and data ethics.

Measurement methodologies for large scale social systems, covering such topics as macroeconomic events, mortality risk and social cohesion, among others.

MassMutual chief data scientist, data science and advanced analytics head Sears Merritt said: “We are extremely excited to be entering into this next phase of our partnership with the Vermont Complex Systems Center. This is a world class lab at the forefront of improving our understanding of fundamental socio-economic issues through modern, data-driven research.

“Our collective efforts here will improve understanding of the physical and financial determinants of wellness in the United States, and create actionable results that advance our industry and society at large. At the same time, we aim to drive talent development through research and publication.”

The Vermont Complex Systems Center supports data science and complex systems education through interdisciplinary learning, and the Center’s master’s and doctorate level graduates have gone on to work for leading data science teams in the private sector at major U.S. and international companies.

Negotiated with assistance from the UVM Foundation’s Corporate & Foundation Relations office, the data science initiative with MassMutual represents the largest single corporate collaboration with the Center since its inception in 2009.

UVM president Tom Sullivan said: “This significant investment in UVM represents a milestone for us.

“Our distinguished faculty and programs are capable of dynamic, large scale partnerships that permit the University to create this Center of Excellence with MassMutual, a company named one of the top fifty most ethical companies in the world. We couldn’t have a better partner to share UVM’s passion for wellness in this exciting endeavor.”

UVM Mathematics and Statistics professor and Complex Systems Center director Peter Dodds said: “We are incredibly excited to partner with MassMutual for our new Center of Excellence in Complex Systems and Data Science.

“The MassMutual Center will be a wellspring of research into people-centric systems, guided by our core ethos to make the world a better place: healthier, happier, fairer, and more productive and creative. The Center will also boost our established educational programs to help students at all levels become the ethical, powerful data scientists that the world needs.”

This latest initiative with the Vermont Complex Systems Center underscores MassMutual’s ongoing commitment to data science and cyber initiatives.

This includes a $2 million, four-year program with Mount Holyoke College and Smith College to provide funding to hire five visiting faculty positions, support the development of a data science-focused curriculum and promote greater diversity in the field.

MassMutual also opened a state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot data science lab in Amherst, Mass. and the MassMutual Foundation has donated $15 million to UMass Amherst over 10 years to further strengthen the university’s data science and cybersecurity programs in Western Massachusetts.

Source: Company Press Release