Corrie Schroeder

Sr Project Manager

Making Data Science Accessible: NMDSI Cultivating Future Tech Talent 

Three Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute affiliated faculty members are working to cultivate the next generation of tech talent in Milwaukee by making data science accessible to students. Dr. Purush Papatla, Dr. Amber Wichowsky, and Dr. Andrew Ranson were guest speakers at The Commons Connect Lunch and Learn serieswhere they spoke with more than 100 students in The Commons virtual internship program about the role data science plays in the fields of politics, marketing and criminal justice, and how data science is shaping Milwaukee and our world. The full recording of the session is available here but below are some highlights and key takeaways:  

Dr. Amber WichowskyAssociate Professor of Political Science and Director of Marquette Democracy Lab, Marquette University 

  • Topic models take millions of data points and cluster them into related topics.  
  • Researchers working on the NMDSI-funded Elecurator project are using this approach to identify and follow the topics getting the most attention in our 2020 election cycle.
  • This analysis helps determine how Americans are talking about politics online, the issues that are dominating social media, and how voters and candidates are responding to each other.   

Dr. Purush PapatlaNMDSI Co-Director and NMDSI Professor of Marketing, UW-Milwaukee  

  • In any given minute more than 55,000 pictures are posted on Instagram.  
  • Studying consumer responses to images, researchers learned that images with greens and deep blues are better received by consumers. Another finding revealed that product images where faces are shown prominently have fewer sales.  
  • Facebook changed their advertising strategies based on these color and subject learnings to increase clothing revenue by $700,000. 

Dr. Andrew RansonAssistant Professor of Criminology and Law Studies, Marquette University  

  • Data science is a big driver for criminal justice reform.  
  • When ruling on pre-trial release terms judges take into consideration a person’s risk of offending prior to court dates and the likelihood of appearing for future court dates.  
  • Recent years have shown a sharp increase in unconvicted persons being detained in jails. When bail is set as a term of pretrial release, persons who are financially disadvantaged are less likely to make bail and are thus unable to assist in their own defense. 
  • Research is looking at later criminal processing, likelihood of conviction and receiving a prison sentence, sentence lengths, and pleas offered as it relates to pre-trial jail retention. 

Many major companies, across industries like insurance and finance, consumer products, energy, healthcare, logistics and transportation, manufacturing, sports and entertainment, and retail, are already investing in data science to drive business decisions. The NMDSI was created in 2018 to help establish Milwaukee as a tech hub by increasing the tech talent pool through a focus on data science, for companies across the region.  

Industry and Academia: Our Differences Are Our Competitive Advantage

As the Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute celebrates its two-year anniversary, see how we’re leveraging the best of both worlds – industry and academia – to make Milwaukee a premier destination for data science talent.