Expectations of Capstone Partners

  • You should be able to provide our students with ample data that is relevant to a question/problem faced by your organization. This need not belong to the capstone partner’s organization – for example, it could come freely online. Datasets must be sufficiently clean, and an appropriate and size that the students will be able to load into R and/or Python in a reasonable amount of time and effort.

  • The partner must be available to meet with MDS students working on the capstone project (in person ideally) every 1-2 weeks during the two months students are working on the capstone project.

  • The partner is expected to be present (in person or remotely) for the students’ final presentation of the capstone project (whether at UBC or at your organization).

  • The partner should be on board with the educational goals of the capstone project, and understand that this partnership isn’t simply 4 “free data scientists” for two months. The partner should be excited about their problem and the educational goals of the project.

  • The partner must come to an agreement about data and product sharing, licensing and intellectual product rights. The MDS program will support agreements that benefit both the students and the partners. Please note that it will be key for the students to share some aspect of the project in their portfolios/curriculum vitae during their job search following graduation from the MDS program.

  • Preference will be given to organizations located in Canada, and especially in the Vancouver area.

Benefits to Capstone Partners

  • An opportunity to get to know and work with ~4 data scientists-in-training working on your dataset/project for ~2 months, at no cost, who could be potential future employees. These students will be well versed in modern data science tools and techniques, including statistical analysis and visualizations using R and Python.

  • A well-developed product of interest/relevance to your work (e.g., Shiny app, analytic report, scripts/software). This product is expected to be of high quality, with excellent code documentation and testing.

  • An opportunity to develop a relationship with the UBC MDS program. These relationships have the possibility of kickstarting research collaborations between the partners and UBC.


The first step in applying to participate as a capstone partner involves writing a project proposal. Check out our About page to learn more about the type of projects we address through our capstone course.

Your proposal should be

  • one page maximum (plus a possible appendix containing reference material), and
  • submitted as a pdf file to capstone-mds@science.ubc.ca.

In addition, please provide a one-sentence description of the project for us to put next to your project name for the students to see. You can simply indicate this in the email you send upon submission.

Your proposal should contain the following information:

About your organization

Briefly introduce your organization. Why might the MDS students be interested in partnering with this organization?

Brief description of the problem/question

Just a brief description of the problem. If you’d like, you can suggest data science approaches that the students can take to address the problem, but this is not necessary. What are the main difficulties that come with this project?

Available data

Describe the data that you will make available to the students. How much data is there? What type of features are available? What type of complications might arise from the data? In what form will the data be available to the students?

Data Product

What product(s) would you like to receive from our students, and what (in general) should it communicate or have the ability to do? Examples:

  • A dashboard such as a shiny app to explore an aspect of your data
  • An R package with documentation to simplify an analysis
  • A data pipeline that includes some data science model
  • A report outlining student findings

Outline the gist of the legalities you intend to have in place, if any – particularly on how secretive you anticipate the students to be with the data and their finished data product. The key here is to just put the main ideas here, not an actual legal document (we’ll address that later).

We understand that you may require some restrictions to be put in place, but we also would like for our students to have some freedom to talk about the work they’ve done when applying for jobs. We want our students to know about these restrictions up-front so that they can make an informed decision about the project.

Feel free to ask us about our standard UBC NDA. Contact us at capstone-mds@science.ubc.ca.

Conflicts of intereset

Declare any conflicts of interest. For example, if a current MDS student or family member is involved with your organization on a professional or personal level, this should be declared along with a short explanation.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding our capstone course. Don’t see the answer to your question here, or elsewhere on the capstone course website? Please contact us at capstone-mds@science.ubc.ca – maybe we’ll add your question to this FAQ page!

1. Is there a fee to participate as a partner? Do students get paid?

No, there is no fee involved anywhere in the process, and we ask that partners do not pay our students.

2. Where do the students work on the capstone projects?

We have workspaces available for the students on the UBC Vancouver campus, and expect students to work on campus at least once per week. Otherwise, we are flexible as to the work location.

3. When are the proposals due?

See our timeline.

4. Is there flexibility in the project after it is proposed?

Within reason. Please contact us at capstone-mds@science.ubc.ca if you have concerns.

5. Can an organization submit more than one project proposal?

Yes, assuming you are willing and able to supervise multiple capstone projects simultaneously, giving each one the attention it deserves. In this situation it’s possible that we will give priority to only one of the projects, so as to give other candidate partners a chance at participating. Also, the projects should be sufficiently different so that there is little overlap, and partners should be willing to put in time to work with each student group.

6. Will the students sign a non-disclosure agreement?

We offer a standard NDA used by UBC. Contact us at capstone-mds@science.ubc.ca for more information.

7. Can the proposed project be “solved”?

We ask that our students try new approaches to a problem, and not replicate our partners’ work. However, we expect our capstone projects to be open-ended, having various approaches for addressing a problem, as opposed to having a single solution. We would encourage our students to either build on our partners’ work, or address the problem from a different angle.

8. Do partners need to know data science to participate? Do partners need to be able to suggest approaches for the students to take in addressing the proposed problem?

No, this is not a requirement. In fact, a major part of our capstone course is for students to decide on approaches themselves for addressing the problem using data science. We do not encourage our students to simply apply some requested data science techniques to the problem. However, we do encourage our partners to share their ideas if they have them!

9. I participated as a capstone partner in a previous year. Can I participate again?

Absolutely! We will be happy to work with you. Please submit a proposal.