New Data Sciences Chair Hired
Baylor University announced the appointment of Henry Han, Ph.D., as the inaugural holder of the McCollum Family Chair in Data Sciences. Han, an international leader in the data sciences disciplines, joins the faculty of Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. In this role, Han will provide visionary leadership throughout to accelerate research and teaching efforts throughout the University in the data sciences, one of five signature initiatives in Illuminate, Baylor University’s strategic plan.
“I’m very excited to join the faculty at Baylor University. There’s an incredible environment here of interdisciplinary research and excellence in teaching,” Han said. “When I looked at my position, saw Baylor’s mission and pursuit of R1, and met the people with whom I’d be working and collaborating, I said, ‘Wow, that’s the one. That’s where I want to be.’”
Han spent the last nine years at Fordham University in New York, where he established a reputation as an innovative, problem-focused researcher whose expertise impacts a range of fields including healthcare, business, finance, cybersecurity and more.
“What Dr. Han brings to Baylor University is a level of expertise in data sciences to enable us to achieve our aspirations in Illuminate, not only in data sciences, but across all disciplines because the data sciences are so core to many research fields,” said Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D. “He’s not only a strong researcher but builds strong programs which also will be a huge benefit to Baylor. “
Growing a discipline that is “reshaping academia”
Baylor’s investment in the data sciences demonstrates the priority the University places on high-level research and impact in a variety of disciplines. Data sciences is a burgeoning field that utilizes advanced computing, machine learning, data mining, data storing, statistics and more to solve problems and utilize data in ways previous unavailable to scholars. Han’s appointment represents an important step in growing Baylor’s data sciences output and offerings.
“Data sciences is reshaping academia, so it is an important field for a university and a focus on the data sciences brings more opportunities for collaboration, new research directions, new courses and sparks research ideas that benefit the academy, the market, industry and people,” Han said.
A graduate of Shaanxi Normal University in his native China, Han has been at the forefront of data sciences growth for more than two decades. Han earned dual Master’s degrees in computer science and mathematics from the University of Iowa in 2001, followed by a Ph.D. at Iowa in 2004 in applied mathematics and computational sciences. He then served on the bioinformatics and mathematics faculty at Eastern Michigan University from 2005 to 2012 before moving to Fordham.
Throughout that time, Han built a reputation as a highly collaborative research leader, engaging in research across a variety of fields, with projects funded by substantial grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and more. Han’s recent endeavors include the development of new approaches in machine learning methods, quantum computing and disease diagnosis.
“Dr. Han is a first-class researcher and a leader in the data science field. His research leads several state-of-the-art interdisciplinary areas in data science. He is an enthusiastic and accomplished educator,” said Jeffrey Yi-Lin Forrest, Ph.D., a longtime collaborator who serves as professor of mathematics, systems science, economics, and finance at Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Slippery Rock campus. “He is an energetic, enthusiastic, and humorous colleague and friend. His research accomplishments, excellent leadership, and previous experiences at Fordham, a Jesuit university, make him a great fit for Baylor.”
At Baylor, Han will apply those experiences to drive data sciences forward throughout the University by developing data sciences courses and curriculum, facilitating interdisciplinary research collaborations and recruiting additional faculty, post-graduate students and undergraduate students.
“Dr. Han is a key addition to the building of our Data Sciences program at Baylor. He brings a wealth of expertise in the areas of big data analytics, data visualization and business analytics,” said Dennis O’Neal, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Given the interdisciplinary nature of data science, Dr. Han will be working with faculty from multiple departments in his research and in course development. We look forward to Dr. Han contributing in a significant way as Baylor pursues R1 research recognition.”
High-Impact Philanthropy and Investment
“Baylor is on track to reach R1 recognition, and it’s exciting to be a part of that,” Han said. “Endowed positions like this one are going have a strong impact on that goal.”
The McCollum Family Chair in Data Sciences was established in 2018 through a gift from Mark (BBA ’80) and Jennifer (BSEd ’80) McCollum of Houston. The gift bears distinction as the first endowed faculty chair established within the School of Engineering and Computer Science.
The McCollums have long supported Baylor through Mark’s former service on the Baylor University Board of Regents and the Board of Advocates for the School of Engineering and Computer Science and through Jennifer’s service on the School of Education Advisory Board and the Baylor Women’s Network of Houston. The McCollums are also co-chairs of the Give Light Campaign’s National Campaign Steering Committee. The McCollum Chair is part of a larger campaign commitment from the McCollums to the Give Light Campaign.
Han’s appointment as The McCollum Family Chair in Data Sciences began in the Fall 2021 semester.
“I’m thankful for the McCollums’ investment in this chair position,” Han said. “This gift will facilitate future research grants and high-impact research products, enable intelligent young people to come to Baylor to work in this exciting field, and fund teaching in new concentrations and programs.”