Any anonymous donor has gifted Californian university UC Berkeley a huge $252 million (£196 million) to build a new “data hub” dedicated to data science research and teaching. The donation is the largest in the 152-year-old university’s history.
Each year, approximately 6,000 undergraduates take a data science course at Berkeley, the university said. The new data science major is the fastest-growing major on campus, rapidly approaching the size of its computer science course.
(The gift outstrips by £46 million a £150 million donation by private equity firm Blackstone’s founder Stephen A Schwarzman to Oxford in 2019, which will be used to fund research into the ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI). That was decribed as the university’s largest donation “since the Renaissance”).
Jennifer Chayes, Dean of Berkeley’s School of Information said: “We are immensely grateful for this generous anchor gift.”
The money (to be augmented by a further $300 million in private donations) will be used to create a new “visually striking” building that will be used to teach data science.
UC Berkeley said: “The building will likely contain robotics and other artificial intelligence laboratories, research centers and workroom spaces, public gathering areas, and teaching space, including a large auditorium and classrooms that can facilitate innovative teaching in the immensely popular data science and computer science courses.”
Chayes added: ““The Data Hub will be a magnet, bringing together scholars from disciplines across campus to forge new collaborations and take on some of the most critical questions facing society today, from biomedicine, to climate change and sustainability, to making data-informed public policy.”
Among UC Berkeley’s famous computing alumni: Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple; more recent alumni include Ali Ghodsi, the CEO of Databricks, recently valued at $6.2 billion after a Series F funding round late last year; Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google, and other great and good of the US tech scene.