Plans for a new statewide innovation network to accelerate job creation and economic growth include building a world-class center devoted to the fast-growing field of data science, U of I System officials announced this week.
The data science center will be created by replacing the university’s Illini Hall, which currently consists of primarily classrooms, computer labs, and faculty offices, with a state-of-the-art classroom and research facility focused on creating knowledge through statistics, data analysis, and machine learning.
Additionally, the university plans to renovate Altgeld Hall. Built in 1897, Altgeld is the second-oldest building on campus, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It hasn’t been renovated since 1956, when it became home to the Department of Mathematics.
The data science center will be funded in part with a portion of the $500 million in state capital funding that was approved last spring to launch the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) and Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The university will contribute to the project.
The Altgeld Hall renovation will receive funding from campus in addition to funding from donations and other sources, some of which has already been secured.
Feng Sheng Hu, the Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, said that the building and renovation projects will link the data science initiative through DPI to the departments of Mathematics and Statistics while providing the departments with long-needed infrastructure improvements. The two departments currently share the bulk of the space in Illini Hall.
“This has tremendous implications for the departments of Mathematics and Statistics, and the entire college,” said Hu. “The new data science center will be pivotal to further establishing LAS as a leader in this field, and, taken together, the building projects will allow for the incredible growth we’ve seen in the mathematical sciences to continue unabated.”