The new Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute unveiled that its first round of research projects will work to understand and address societal issues, including 2020 voter sentiment, equitable housing and the opioid crisis.

The institute launched in the fall as a partnership of Northwestern Mutual, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University, and is backed by a $15 million commitment from the Milwaukee-based life insurance company, along with $12 million from each university. The institute is housed at Cream City Labs, an innovation lab in Northwestern Mutual’s downtown headquarters.

For its first project, the institute said it will use data pulled from online and social media, traditional polling methods and political advertisements to determine which issues are on voters’ minds in the 2020 election. The project, which involves students from both UWM and Marquette, is aimed at shedding light on what is likely to drive voter behavior.

The institute is also partnering with Walnut Way on a community project that uses data science to understand anti-displacement and equitable housing in Milwaukee’s Lindsay Heights neighborhood. Students from both universities will analyze nearly 20 years of data on the social, environmental and economic aspects of the neighborhood to determine how to address barriers to equitable housing and economic development.

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