Benefits to Capstone Partners
You’ll have ~4 data scientists-in-training working on your dataset/project for ~2 months, at no cost. These students will be well versed in modern data science tools and techniques, including statistical analysis and visualizations using R and Python.
These students could be potential future employees; in addition, there will be visibility for your organization for the whole cohort through various events and presentations.
Students will create 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.
This is 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.
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) on a weekly basis during the duration of the capstone project.
The partner should be on board with the educational goals of the capstone project, and understand that this partnership isn’t simply “free data scientists” for two months.
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 during their job search following graduation from the MDS program.
The partner consents to the organization’s name and project title being listed on the UBC MDS website.
We expect our student groups to
- communicate productively, identify sub-problems that could be worked on individually by team members, and integrate contributions of team members into a final product;
- work at least four full-time days per week on the project;
- document and present their work at UBC (using written, oral, and visual means) at various points throughout the course.
- optionally (but strongly recommended), present their final product and findings to the capstone partner’s organization.
Successful MDS capstone projects…
- pose an interesting and open-ended question/problem that can be addressed using data science for which data is available or obtainable.
- pose a multi-faceted question/problem, containing enough dimensions to be addressed in a multitude of ways.
- are sufficiently deep, such that a useful data product can be made in two months that makes a solid advance on the problem.
- can be split up into milestones, such that concrete progress can be made in two months.
- draw on various tools and topics the students have learned in their courses during the MDS program.
What a capstone project is not:
- Setting up and/or maintaining a database.
- This project should focus on a data science problem.
- A pre-specified approach, such as applying a particular machine learning algorithm to a particular data set.
- This type of project is too narrow, not open-ended, and has only one or a few solutions. We expect our students to creatively come up with their own data science approaches to address the capstone partner’s over-arching question/problem (with advice from the capstone partner on data science approaches).
- Data cleaning.
- Although we expect some data wrangling to be involved in the project, we ask that you provide data that is mostly clean and “ready-to-go”. If you need help with this, ASDa from the UBC Department of Statistics might be able to help for a fee.
- Software development.
- Although our students learn some basic principles of software development, they are not generally equipped to build production-level software systems. Software development projects would also typically be less well aligned with the students’ interests and the learning objectives of the capstone course.
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 Milad Maymay at
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 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. 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.
5. Will the students sign a non-disclosure agreement?
Yes, this is possible. The preferred option is to use UBC’s standard NDA template.
6. 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.
7. 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!
8. Does the partner organization need to be located in Vancouver?
We welcome interest from any organization. However, preference will be given to organizations located in Canada, and especially in the Vancouver area.
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.