Data Start: The Southern Startup Internship Program in Data Science


The application deadline was May 1 2016.

PDF version of the DataStart call

If you are an industry representative seeking a connection with a talented graduate student, you can enter yourself into our directory of DataStart industry contacts (can be viewed by visitors to our site). Use our directory submission form. Note this is for industry only. Students see below.

If you are a student, you can view our directory of interested host industries for the DataStart program. As indicated in the call for proposals, "Students are responsible for identifying a company willing to serve as host for their internship.” This directory is merely a starting point for interested students who need host industry suggestions. It is by no means an exhaustive list. All host companies who satisfy the criteria outlined in the CFP are welcome.​


The Southern Startup Internship Program in Data Science (“DataStart”) provides graduate students from the 16 states that comprise the South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (South BD Hub) the opportunity to work with data-related startup companies on data-intensive business challenges important to the company. Students will be paid for their work through a grant to the startup company, and it is up to the students to identify their proposed host company.

The program is designed to facilitate connections between graduate students in data science-related fields and entrepreneurial firms in the South, helping to strengthen academic-industrial connections and enhancing the entrepreneurial culture in the South.

This 2016 summer program is administered by the South BD Hub, a program managed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Georgia Institute of Technology that includes dozens of southern universities, companies, and nonprofits which are part of the National Science Foundation’s Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (BD Hub) program. The new BD Hub program aims to build innovative public-private partnerships that address regional challenges such as health care, habitat planning, and coastal hazards through big data analysis, research, and innovation.

The DataStart internship program is open to graduate students in good standing at accredited universities in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Students from all academic disciplines and domains are welcome to participate. Students are responsible for identifying a company willing to serve as host for their internship. Accordingly, a one-page letter of support from the host company must accompany the proposed work plan submitted by the student.

Host companies will receive up to $15,000 to defray the cost of hosting a graduate student for the summer of 2016. Companies are expected to pay the graduate student an internship stipend of $4,000 per month. The balance of funds may be used to defray company overhead expenses, travel for the student, office space and equipment, etc.

Host companies must be officially incorporated in the Southern region (as defined by the above states), employ no more than 50 employees, and be active in the data science, “big data” analytics, or technology space. All funds received by the company must be used in direct support of this program. Both graduate student interns and a representative of their host company are expected to participate in a workshop at the end of the summer to share their experiences with other program participants. Representatives from the BD South Hub, the National Science Foundation, and the Computing Community Consortium will also attend this wrap-up workshop.

ELIGIBILITY: Only graduate students in good standing at accredited universities in the Southern region are eligible for this program. Students must provide two letters of support with their application: 1) a one-page letter from their academic advisor or other faculty member familiar with their course of study; and 2) a one-page letter of support from a host company that the student has identified, stating that the company is willing to host the student at its facility for the summer of 2016.

Host companies must meet the following criteria: 1) officially incorporated in the Southern region, 2) active in the data science, “big data” analytics, or broader technology space, and 3) employ no more than 50 employees, 4) in business for no more than 5 years.

For the purposes of the this program, the Southern region includes the following: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

FINANCIAL STIPEND: Each student/company pair which receives an award will be granted $15,000 per internship to cover a student stipend and minor administrative costs. Funds will be directed to the host companies, which in turn will be expected to pay the graduate student an internship stipend of $4,000 per month ($12,000 total for three months). The balance of funds may be used to defray company overhead expenses, travel for the student, office space and equipment, etc.
This program will run from approximately June 1 to August 31, 2016, although specific start and end dates will be determined by the participants. The South BD Hub expects to award 5-6 internships.

APPLICATION PROCESS: Graduate students interested in the program should submit proposals by May 1, 2016. The proposal must clearly explain the expected benefits of the student collaboration with the company.

PROPOSAL REQUIREMENTS:

  • Project description (2 pages). A clear and detailed statement describing the focus of the proposed work during the internship, the challenges addressed by that work, and the proposed plans for the project during the summer.
  • Faculty Advisor support letter: A one-page letter of support from the applicant’s graduate advisor or another faculty member familiar with the applicant’s course of study.
  • Host Company support letter: A one-page letter of support from an official of an eligible company stating their willingness to host the student for the summer, the benefit the company expects to receive, and their willingness to abide by the rules of the program. The support letter must include the following text:
    “XX organization satisfies the Host Company criteria and agrees to pay the DataStart Intern $12,000 for three months / $4,000 per month, from approximately June 1 to August 31, 2016, in accordance with all applicable laws. In addition to compensation, the intern will have access to sufficient office space and will be assigned a manager/supervisor to assist in the coordination and oversight of the internship experience. At the close of the program term, XX organization will send a representative to attend the wrap up workshop in Chapel Hill, NC (Sept/Oct 2016).”
  • Biographical sketch or CV is required.

All proposal documents must be combined into a single PDF and should be uploaded using the form which can be accessed at the bottom of this web page.

SUGGESTED PROJECT TOPICS: To encourage interaction with the South BD Hub going forward, students should consider orienting their internships around one or more of the broad themes of the Hub:

  • Big Data Sharing and Infrastructure
  • Big Data Economic Modeling
  • Data Security and Privacy
  • Industrial Big Data
  • Materials and Manufacturing
  • Health Disparities, Precision Medicine, and Healthcare Analytics
  • Natural Hazards
  • Habitat Planning

Please note, however, that submissions which do not address one of the above topics will also be considered, although they will be expected to address a particularly novel or innovative data science question relevant to their host company.

SELECTION: South BD Hub representatives will use the following criteria to evaluate proposals and select award recipients:

  • Strength of connectivity between the graduate student intern and the host company
  • Merit of the proposed internship subject matter, its feasibility in the allotted time, and its relevance to the field of data science
  • Potential for future collaboration between the student, their university, and the host company following the conclusion of the internship

NOTIFICATION: All those who submit proposals will be notified of their status by May 13, 2016.

QUESTIONS: For questions, clarifications, or any additional information about this program, please contact:

Lea Shanley at lshanley@renci.org, or call 919-445-0470
David Knowles at dknowles@renci.org, or call 919-445-9677

The application period ended May 1 2016