The University of California, San Diego has announced a $75 million gift from alumnus ('96) Taner Halicioglu in support of a new data science institute.
The largest gift ever to the university from an alumnus will establish the Halicioglu Institute of Data Science, a cross-disciplinary initiative combining computer science, cognitive science, mathematics, and other fields. Among other things, the gift will support fellowships for faculty, postdocs, and graduate students, as well as undergraduate scholarships, innovation grants, and outreach and networking initiatives.
"Data science touches so many areas — biology, physics, chemistry, medicine, computer science, math," said Halicioglu, citing personalized medicine as an area that stands to benefit from advances in the field.
The gift also launches the public phase of a ten-year, $2 billion capital campaign — which, since July 2012, has raised $991 million — that will fund a $1.6 billion plan to build additional housing, classrooms, research space, and a student center on campus. Total enrollment at UCSD has increased by sixty-five hundred since 2012 and is expected to reach forty thousand by 2020.
After graduating from UCSD with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Halicioglu worked at eBay and Loudcloud before joining Facebook as its first full-time employee in 2004. At Facebook, he was instrumental in developing the hardware infrastructure that enabled the social network to handle the explosive growth it subsequently experienced. He left the company in 2009 and went on to serve as a lead reliability engineer at Blizzard Entertainment, before returning to UCSD in 2013 as a lecturer in computer science. Halicioglu also is a founding partner in Seed San Diego, a venture fund that supports tech startups. In 2015, he made a $2 million gift to the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD to enrich its computer science offerings.
Halicioglu said his latest gift was inspired by the strong sense of camaraderie he felt with other students and faculty as an undergraduate, as well as a desire to help students while also promoting the field of data science. "I've seen more and more evidence that start-ups in areas like biotech and software need data scientists," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It is hard to find people who are good at knowing what data to collect, how to store and analyze this data, and how to present or act on it....There's a lot of breadth and depth in data science."