The Aloha State may not be Silicon Paradise (yet), but it’s trying! To get you up-to-speed, we’ve put together a short guide to earning a HI data science degree. It has details on everything from research & scholarships to startups & salary numbers. Already have a university in mind? Skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Hawaii.
Studying Data Science in Hawaii
Hawaii is a land of opportunity. On the plus side, it has a long history of ties with the Navy, and is home to the U.S. Pacific Command. There’s a lot of money in military research (e.g. regional/operational defense and cybersecurity) and 21st century science (e.g. ocean, climate, space, natural disasters, etc.). For example, the Pacific International Center For High Technology Research (PICHTR) works with the DOE, the DHS, and the Office of Naval Research. What’s more:
- Millennials are heavily involved in the intersection of technology with renewable energy, green transportation, sustainable tourism, and efficient agriculture. The “clean tech” sector is becoming one of Hawaii’s major strengths.
- The state is swarming with enthusiastic tech communities and has two major research parks – the Manoa Innovation Center and the Maui Research and Technology Park. Booster organizations such as the High Technology Development Corporation and the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation’s HI Growth Initiative are always pushing for change.
- A “Startup Paradise” is being championed by accelerators (e.g. Blue Startups, Elemental Excelerator, and GVS Accelerator); venture capitalists (e.g. Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Sultan Ventures, Startup Capital Ventures, and Kolohala Ventures); and investment networks (e.g. Hawaii Angels).
On the minus side, the state is still young. There’s only one major university system, military & science research can sometimes remain “siloed” away from commercial enterprises, living costs are high, and data science labs & institutes are still in their infancy. If Hawaii can manage to overcome these challenges, it’ll be interesting to see if West Coast bigwigs flee to Paradise in the coming years.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Hawaii Universities
The seeds of a data science city (e.g. San Francisco) are often sown by star academics who push hard for grants & government funding. Star academics attract students. Students graduate and create startups in incubators & accelerators. And so an economy is born…
The University of Hawaiʻi (UH) System is doing its best to follow this pattern:
- At UH Mānoa’s Department of Information and Computer Sciences, you’ll find research labs in areas like bioinformatics, machine learning, computer-human interaction, and advanced visualization.
- The Laboratory for Advanced Visualization & Applications (LAVA) is an important one, because it’s designed to act as the core lab for a High Performance Computing and Informatics Institute that will serve the data intensive science, engineering, and training needs of all 10 campuses.
- LAVA has ties to with UH Mānoa’s Cyber-enabled Collaboration Analysis Navigation and Observation Environment (CyberCANOE). Funded by a NSF grant, this data visualization environment can be used for multiple projects, including UH’s research in oceanography and astronomy.
But data visualization isn’t the only area of data interest for UH. It has also:
- Used a hefty NSF grant to create the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Hawaii and the ʻIke Wai Integrated Knowledge Environment (IKE) – a five-year study that will generate data and models to tackle issues surrounding water sustainability. UH Hilo hopes to invest some of the grant money into new faculty members and data science programs.
- Developed XLR8UH, an award-winning startup accelerator that was created through a public-private partnership with Sulvan Ventures. XLR8UH has some fascinating portfolio companies.
- Hired researchers to boost its strength in biostatistics & informatics and genomics at the UH Cancer Institute. In 2016, an assistant professor received $4.5 million in NIH grants to use big data to study preeclampsia, breast cancer, and acute leukemia.
Whether UH can keep the momentum going depends on the energy of its administration. Watch this space…
Online Data Science Programs in Hawaii
You’ll have limited options when it comes to distance learning in Hawaii, though both HPU and UH have made an effort. If you need some help assessing quality, have a squizz at our short checklist on what to look for in an online data science program.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
Hawaiʻi Pacific University’s Professional Certificate in Business Analytics is a short and intense burst of data science for working professionals. The syllabus includes courses on business analytics, network analysis, data mining for business intelligence, and big data.
Need something more specialized? We’ve also compiled a directory of programs offered by respected schools throughout the country: Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
Although the UH System doesn’t have any online degrees in data science, UH Mānoa’s Master of Science in Computer Science will allow you to incorporate distance learning courses into your plan of study. And thanks to the wide range of coursework, you can pretty much build your own data science program.
As the university points out, a blended MS is best suited to “students who can attend face-to-face courses some semesters (typically 2 or more semesters).”
Data Science Scholarships in Hawaii
For this section, we focused on departmental assistantships & tuition waivers (i.e. institutional aid). However, the Graduate Studies Office will have advice on general scholarships (e.g. diversity funds), outside scholarships (e.g. NSF funds), and alternative financing options (e.g. low-interest loans). Talk to your friendly advisor!
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
- ‘Ike Wai Graduate Scholarship Program: Some of the NSF money for the ‘Ike Wai project will help fund graduate students pursuing research-based master or doctoral degrees in a relevant focus area (geoscience, data science, engineering, etc.). Students will work as research assistants and must be involved in a project directly related to ‘Ike Wai and supervised by an ‘Ike Wai faculty member.
- Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Research Assistantships: ICS supports several graduate students through these assistantships. Research assistants typically work 20 hours of work per week in exchange for a tuition waiver.
- Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Teaching Assistantships: The department offers a limited number of teaching assistantships to well-qualified graduate students each semester. In return for 20 hours of work per week, students receive a full tuition waiver.
- Information & Computer Sciences (ICS) Tuition Waivers: Each year, the ICS Graduate Chair receives Achievement Scholarships funds to allocate to ICS graduate students who pay tuition out of pocket. Full or partial tuition waivers are granted to current students based on academic merit and progress.
Data Science Events in Hawaii
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Hawaii
Meetups with a pure data science focus? A couple. Meetups devoted to new technology, startups & entrepreneurship (e.g. Honolulu New Tech), and the latest in academic research? A lot! In addition to the list below, be sure to check out TechHui’s calendar of meetup events and its directory of tech groups.
- #TechTuesday: Run by Hawaii Tech Works, #Tech Tuesday is a monthly event in Hilo that caters to design and tech professionals. Entrepreneurs can present demos and presentations, discuss technology topics, and build their network of contacts.
- Honolulu New Tech: Sponsored by the Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA), this meetup comes together four times every year to chat about the latest happenings in Oahu’s tech and startup scene. However, it also lists events related to HVCA, East Meets West, XLR8UH, and other entrepreneurial efforts.
- Honolulu R Users Group: As the title would suggest, this friendly meetup is aimed at tech geeks who are interested in R and related topics around data, analysis, and scoring modeling. Members also belong to PyHawaii (see below).
- Maui Techies Meetup: Open to anyone who works in tech (e.g. software or hardware, entrepreneur or corporate), this quarterly meetup alternates between the south side (Kihei) and Upcountry (Makawao/Paia). It’s not very active, but you may be able to kickstart it.
- PyHawaii: Billed as the “Pacific’s Premier Python Users Group,” PyHawaii is a popular Honolulu community that welcomes all levels of Python users – from beginner to advance. Members meetup regularly for tutorials, workshops, projects, and activities.
Bonus Round: We found so many organizations devoted to supporting tech enthusiasts that we felt they merited their own list. So without further ado:
- TechHui: Along with those useful links to meetups & communities, TechHui’s online forum can help you network with tech geeks, find employees and contractors, promote your startup, and more.
- High Tech Maui: Created by the Maui Economic Development Board, High Tech Maui organizes workshops & networking events, posts news about the latest developments, and maintains a directory of high-tech businesses on Maui.
- Hawaii Tech Works: Based in Hilo, Hawaii Tech Works Hawaii is a community of design & tech professionals that organizes regular meetups, offers a coworking space (DesignLab), and posts events.
- ThinkTech Hawaii: ThinkTech Hawaii is the NPR of Hawaii’s tech community. It provides coverage of the latest news & events through radio and video presentations.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Hawaii
Gorgeous scenery, direct flights from San Francisco, the base of Internet billionaires – there are a few reasons you’ll find big names visiting Hawaii. IEEE was in Honolulu in 2017 with its IEEE International BigData Congress (and its co-located conferences) and Big Data Everywhere visited in June 2016. Island-based conferences include:
- East Meets West (EMW): Sponsored by Blue Startups, EMW brings together investors and entrepreneurs from Asia, Hawaii, and North America. The conference includes a Pitch-off, a Startup Paradise Demo Day, and a Global Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.
- Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS): Organized by UH Mānoa’s Shidler College of Business, HICSS is a well-known conference on information systems. Conference tracks focus on many areas of research, including decision analytics, IT in healthcare, electronic government, and more.
- Pacific Operational Science and Technology (POST) Conference: POST is intended to help the U.S. government (e.g. DOD, DOE & interagency labs) and partner nations understand operational challenges in the region. Every year in March, you’ll find Asia-Pacific tech experts who are working on issues like disaster relief, maritime security, data fusion, counter terrorism, and more.
- VERGE: Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit: Sponsored by the Hawaii State Energy Office, VERGE is a three-day event focusing on how technology can assist in renewable energy/clean economy projects. As well as talks & panels, it includes an Expo and a startup competition.
Data Science Jobs in Hawaii
Despite what naysayers will tell you, there are data science openings in Hawaii – if you look hard enough. For example, analyst opportunities often exist at regional offices of big internationals (e.g. Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte) and healthcare institutions (e.g. AlohaCare, Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), and Hawaii Pacific Health).
You’ll also discover interesting things afoot in the field of advanced research & development. We’re talking about names such as:
- Oceanit, which is one of the largest engineering and technology firms in Hawaii and is working on fascinating projects in life sciences, advanced materials, aerospace, info systems, etc.
- Referentia, which develops mission-assured cybersecurity solutions for defense and homeland security.
- Pukoa Scientific, which is housed in the Manoa Innovation Center and deals with pattern recognition technologies for defense and commercial use.
- Akimeka, which is a subsidiary of VSE Corporation that provides IT solutions to federal, state, and local government clients.
Plus there are the companies that are using specific technologies to wrangle the digital world. In your search, you may run into:
- AlgorithmHub, which allows users to find, share, and run algorithms in the cloud. Born from XLR8UH, its clients have included the UH Cancer Center and the NSA.
- Smart Yields, which employs real-time monitoring, data analytics, and digital agronomy to help farmers protect crops, optimize operations, and increase yields.
- Kapalya, which has developed a mobile app that encrypts data on endpoints, corporate servers, and cloud servers.
- Activer, which is an online service that enables users to research, find, and book travel experiences.
We’re not suggesting small businesses will have lots of jobs, but it’s useful to see the direction they’re heading (e.g. cybersecurity, agriculture, tourism, etc.). Especially if you’re planning to create or work for a startup!
Bonus Round: In addition to the usual sites, you can try Tech Jobs Hawaii, which is run by the High Technology Development Corporation. Or you might wish to contact some of the cool Hawaii tech businesses in the TechHui Directory to see if they’re in the mood for hiring.
Data Scientist Salaries in Hawaii
Because sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com rely on job postings to calculate their average estimated salary numbers, real-world numbers for data scientists in Hawaii are tricky. In 2017, Indeed.com didn’t have any figures for Hawaii and Glassdoor’s only salary entry was for Booz Allen Hamilton (which had an average of $77k – $82k).
For the best advice, ask around at meetups and tap your network of contacts. Any salary offer should take into account the fact that places like Honolulu have a sky-high cost of living.
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