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$10 million new gift from Rick McVey launches computational and data sciences center at college
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$10 million new gift from Rick McVey launches computational and data sciences center at college

Colby College announced the establishment of a new center to help speed scientific discovery, provide a leading edge educational program and support use of computational tools and methods across the college’s curriculum.

The McVey Center for Computational and Data Sciences was founded with a $10 million gift from Colby Trustee Richard M. McVey and joins the college’s Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence in offering scholarly and teaching resources unparalleled in a liberal arts setting, according to Colby officials. They said the timing is critical as scientific discovery drives innovation across industries and transforms the prospects in a range of issues, from human health to the planet’s future.

“Computational power and modeling are rapidly expanding human knowledge and driving revolutionary change,” Colby President David A. Greene said in a news release from the college.

“This is certainly true in the natural sciences, but it is also rapidly changing many social science, interdisciplinary and humanistic fields. Marrying computation with experimentation, theory and qualitative methodologies has proven to be a major accelerant of discovery and learning. Rick McVey has been at the forefront of this work with the world-leading firm he founded, MarketAxess, and now he is making it possible for Colby students and faculty to pioneer new ways of learning by applying data science to a broad-based liberal arts curriculum.”

Greene called McVey’s contribution “a spectacular gift that both builds on current programs and opens the door for exciting new directions in teaching and research.”

The new center will provide Colby students necessary computational and data science knowledge and practical expertise that employers in nearly every sector demand while offering faculty significant resources and support to integrate those powerful tools into their courses and research, according to officials.

The center also will enable Colby to launch new, applied fields of study that are likely to include public health, biomedical engineering and environmental engineering.

“It is part of a much broader set of planned investments in programs and facilities that will make Colby a national leader in scientific education and a key science hub in Maine that addresses the state’s needs and fuels Maine’s growing innovation ecosystem,” the Colby release says.

Colby has made significant investments in the computational and data sciences over the last several years with highlights including a series of new majors offered in data science, computational biology and environmental computation, according to officials. The Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the first cross-disciplinary institute for AI at a liberal arts college, also was launched. In 2019, Colby, with a $2 million gift from McVey, developed an initiative focusing on integrating data science across the curriculum.

McVey is executive chairman of MarketAxess, a financial technology firm.

“It is exciting to support Colby’s expansive programming for computational and data science and AI,” McVey said in the Colby release. “What is most compelling to me is the multiplier effect of this gift for Colby students and faculty, including the research opportunities it will create. Data science skills and domain knowledge are both essential across all majors to prepare students for successful careers in today’s economy.”

The McVey Center will have a physical location on the Colby campus and eventually will be part of a future comprehensive sciences complex, according to the college. The goal of the center also is to contribute to the growing technology ecosystem in Maine, including attracting businesses and research.

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