Faculty Leads

Austin Wright
Faculty Director for the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program Austin Wright

Austin Wright

Austin Wright is the Faculty Director for the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program, ensuring the holistic curriculum is designed and taught to meet student needs in the UChicago way. Wright is an Assistant Professor at Harris Public Policy, and faculty affiliate of The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.


The curriculum of the program is designed to equip students with the ability to understand and address global issues from multiple perspectives and with data-analytical tools. Students participate in research projects by applying course concepts to real issues and incorporating feedback from faculty and team members.

Data Analytics in Public Policy

This course provides an introduction to critical, quantitative thinking. Students will be introduced to the basic toolkit of policy analysis, which includes sampling, hypothesis testing, Bayesian inference, regression, experiments, instrumental variables, differences in differences, and regression discontinuity. More importantly, students will learn the principles of critical thinking essential for careful and credible policy analysis.

Introduction to Programming in R

This is an introductory course in programming and data analysis for students with no prior coding experience. The course has three goals: introducing students to the tools required to write and share code; translating self-contained questions into R programs; and learning how to retrieve, clean, visualize, and analyze data.

Faculty-led Capstone Project

In the capstone project, you will work with faculty director Austin Wright on real-world problems, collaborating with peers and instructors to design a solution. 

Through the process of data analysis and presentation, you will harness the skills of research design, policy analysis, and team collaboration to conduct a research project using real datasets.

The learning outcomes (presentation or policy memo) will become a portfolio piece that you can use to highlight your academic readiness for graduate program admissions or for applications for internships or jobs.

The 2021 program will offer two-three capstone project topics. The faculty have prepared a list of project topics, and admitted students will vote to select the project topics offered during the program. Therefore, we encourage you to submit your application early to cast your vote! 

Past capstone projects

  • Conflict and Insurgent Learning (PDF, 4 pages): How do insurgents learn and adapt to their enemies?

  • Cyber Attacks and Stock Market Prices: Do company strategically decide on the timing to release the hack news?

  • Hate Crimes in the United States (PDF, 4 pages): What are the trends and implications of hate crime reporting?

Headshot of Manish Muthukrishnan
Manish Muthukrishnan

"I've always been in public policy, but the data element and how you can incorporate that into public policy is something that DPSS has really given me. Even after this, I want to go back and continue learning."

Manish Muthukrishnan, 2019 DPSS Participant, BC Economics and Marketing, University Of Canterbury

Virtual Format

Canvas: The education platform, Canvas, will be the hub where you can access lecture videos and discussion boards, and connect with faculty, staff and graduate teaching assistants. We will also use Canvas to post announcements and schedule appointments with program administrators. 

Zoom: You will utilize Zoom as the platform to attend live office hours with instructors.

Lectures: Each week pre-recorded lecture videos will be posted to Canvas, which you can watch at your own pace.

Office hours: There will be designated office hours so you can connect with faculty or graduate teaching assistants. Office hours are held six days a week at various times of day.

Grading: Quizzes and individually submitted assignments will be required for grading purposes. There is no exam for the program.

Read our blog post on the Benefits of the Virtual Format

View the Program Schedule page

Read our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)