Kick-off for graduate school in data science

Helmholtz Association providing 6 million euros for promoting young talents

Huge amounts of data are generated at DESY's research facilities. Their intelligent and efficient use is the subject of the new graduate school. Credit: DESY, Heiner Müller-Elsner

A new graduate school for data science will be established in Hamburg. The “Data Science in Hamburg – Helmholtz Graduate School for the Structure of Matter”, abbreviated to DASHH, will offer young scientists an interdisciplinary and application-oriented education in processing and analysing large volumes of data when studying the structure of matter. The Helmholtz Association has now decided to fund this initiative, which is being organised by DESY, the University of Hamburg (UHH) and the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) as well as five other North German research institutions, giving it almost six million euros over the next six years.

“Data Science is a key technology for current and future natural sciences. Together with the universities, we would like to establish computer science geared to the natural sciences on the Bahrenfeld campus, and offer very good research opportunities for PhD students in the field of big data,” says Prof. Helmut Dosch, the chairman of DESY’s Board of Directors. “They will have the opportunity to continue refining information technology systems and methods of analysis at the highest level using extremely interesting data from cutting-edge research.”

“The research carried out on the large-scale equipment at DESY is a prime example of the application of data science in the natural sciences. Top-class research into the structure of matter is only possible using modern data science methods,” says Prof. Nina Rohringer (DESY), one of the DASHH spokespersons, together with Prof. Matthias Rarey (UHH) and Prof. Sabine Le Borne (TUHH).

An intensive, multidisciplinary collaboration is essential in order to fully exploit the excellent research potential of the unique large-scale equipment at DESY, to generate new ideas and refine existing methods. DASHH is meant to provide a long-term link between the excellent research on the Bahrenfeld campus and state-of-the-art research into computer science at the Hamburg universities.

“DASHH offers huge benefits to all sides and will have a positive long-term influence on research into information technology geared to the natural sciences in Hamburg. It raises exciting research questions for computer science, whose solutions will not only advance research in the natural sciences, but will also culminate in new methods in computer science and mathematics,” says Matthias Rarey.

Key fields of application lie in structural biology, material sciences, physics using ultrafast X-ray pulses and particle physics. The DASHH graduate school will offer highly talented young researchers from all over the world the opportunity to do their doctorate. They will work in natural scientific research groups, tackling the challenges posed by large volumes of highly complex scientific data. Here they might develop specialised software solutions for data management, processing and analysis, for example, but also come up with entirely new computer-aided data science methods. They will be assisted by a team of supervisors from the field of computer science or applied mathematics, and from a collaborating group of natural scientists. The regular exchange of information among the post-graduates themselves and with the scientists from the participating institutions will broaden the knowledge base further.

Places at the graduate school will be awarded annually through a stringent selection procedure following an international call for applications. The sponsorship grant for the graduate school from the Helmholtz Association’s Initiative and Networking Fund marks the start of preparations for the first call for applications, which will probably take place in the first half of 2019.

In its new strategy, DESY has identified data science as a priority field of activity, to master the tremendous challenges posed by data-intensive research. DASHH is one of the pillars of this new data science initiative. The Helmholtz Association is also pursuing the goal of strengthening its data science competencies and networking with universities through its multi-centric Helmholtz Information and Data Science Academy (HIDA). In strategic terms, DASHH also matches the science-policy objectives of Hamburg’s Senate, which is promoting research into computer science in Hamburg through its ahoi.digitalinitiative. The DASHH graduate school will be a fundamental component of both these initiatives.

Together with DESY, the University of Hamburg, the Technical University of Hamburg, the European XFEL, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, the Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht, the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter, and the Helmut Schmidt University are also involved in DASHH.