Establishing Data Science Thought Leaders

The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute is committed to solving important business and community challenges by harnessing the power of data for research and scientific discovery.

Our research efforts are prioritized by using data to address three major themes:

  • Tackling some of the world’s largest health crises
  • Addressing challenging social issues that affect a large population
  • Finding innovative solutions for business and industry problems

Underlying these areas is an unwavering focus on the ethical use of data to ensure we’re on the cutting edge of data science trends and effecting positive change in a responsible manner.


NMDSI Active Research

NMDSI-supported research advances innovative ideas, while fostering collaborations that will lead to long-term, deep relationships among faculty — across disciplines — at both UW-Milwaukee and Marquette. Through these collaborations, we will maximize contributions to data science while producing internationally-recognized data science research and thought leadership. Check out these current active projects:

The Elecurator Project

The project tracks the major issues engaging both candidates and voters in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Using a technique known as social curation, the team is analyzing multiple sources of data to see what topics are important to voters and how the candidates are speaking about those same issues.

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Meet our Researchers

  • Matthew Friedel
  • Senior Lecturer
  • AI and Blockchain Technology
  • UW-Milwaukee

Matthew Friedel is the Co-Founder of the Milwaukee Venture Partners Angel Network which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide investment capital, strategic advice and mentoring to early-stage companies to help them achieve market leadership. He is also the Co-Founder of the UWM Disruptive Technologies Lab which is a platform for conducting research, creating new courses, and working with strategic partners in the business community on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, he is also a Senior Lecturer at UW-Milwaukee and an Adjunct Faculty at Marquette University.

He holds an MBA and a Master of Science Engineering degree from Marquette University and has an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at UW-Milwaukee.

Q: What are his areas of research?

A: He specializes in Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Technology where he takes a practical approach in creating and implementing projects. Matt is also a subject matter expert in startups, investing, and creating new ventures. Currently, he teaches a Graduate level class on practical applications in AI and disruptive technologies in UWM’s new $10 million Lubar Entrepreneurship Center which promotes entrepreneurial and design thinking with an emphasis on cross pollination of disciplines.

Q: What are the most counterintuitive insights he has found from his research?

A: In Matt’s words: “Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain projects can sometimes be a ‘Blackbox.’ When it’s not straightforward and easy for the average person to understand, they need storytellers or some sort of explainer to communicate their significance and benefits of the projects’ outcomes.

In the case of Blockchain, it is sometimes hard to wrap your brain around the idea that financial transactions which occurs on the IT network with cryptography as the trust mechanism, can actually happen without a central authority such as a bank or financial institution. With AI, a company might analyze customer and sales data only to realize the most profitable customer is not what they intuitively thought!”

He also hopes his research will advance the field of data science in terms of how Big Data is used in AI and how Blockchain is more than just Cryptocurrency.

Q: What kind of impact do you hope your research will have in the near or distant future?

A: At this time, Matt has his eyes set on several goals. One is to make it easier for individuals to create tech startups and new ventures by making that information more accessible. Two, contribute to making the Midwest to be a vibrant and innovative hub for tech startups.

In addition, Matt says “education and practice are key! This semester (Fall 2021), I will be teaching a new undergraduate class (295 Management Seminar – Technology Entrepreneurship: AI and Blockchain) at the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. The goal is to teach both AI and Blockchain along with the Lean Launch approach to startups. Students will learn about Business Model Canvas, Customer Discovery, and developing Minimal Viable Products. Plus, students will have an opportunity to have accidental collisions with students from all different backgrounds across campus creating rich and diverse project teams. The LEC hosts many programs that bring in students from all corners of the campus. Finally, students have the chance to apply their learnings to future Milwaukee I-Corps Programs hosted at LEC. The I-Corps is a partnership between Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and Concordia University.”

Q: What advice would you give someone who is interested in data science research?

A: “All education disciplines will have a data science aspect, but you don’t have to be a programmer to get involved. You can learn about how it works and its lifecycle. Understanding what data science is and being aware of it are the most critical parts. Secondary to this are networking and professional development. Students should view themselves as emerging professionals with a passion for lifetime learning. Don’t be afraid to get out of the classroom and attend a networking event or connect with a professional on LinkedIn. The Midwest has a supportive network of individuals who generally want to assist and mentor aspiring professionals in data science,” said Matt.

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Affiliated Faculty

The NMDSI Affiliated Faculty program provides resources and support to data science faculty, tracks data science research and education, and facilitates building expert multidisciplinary teams from faculty with overlapping or complementary skills and interests.

By building a data science community based on collaboration and increasing the collective impact of data science research, the NMDSI Affiliated Faculty program brings us one step closer to achieving our goal of transforming our world through the power of data science.

Interested in joining the NMDSI Affiliated Faculty program? Submit your application below.

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