Mentoring to Increase Neurodiversity in Data Science

Learn more about this pilot program for young adults.

Program Overview

The Mentoring to Increase Neurodiversity in Data Science (MINDS) is a pilot program for young adults and represents an interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of Virginia’s School of Data Science, the UVA Brain Institute, and the Supporting Transformative Autism Research (STAR) Initiative. The program is part of a research study that aims to position students to explore career opportunities in data science through:

  • Data science education 
  • Social skills training
  • The facilitation of connections with employers 

Who should apply? 

To be considered for admission, you must be a high school graduate between the ages of 18 and 25, have an autism spectrum condition (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder), and an interest in data science broadly conceived (e.g., problem solving, puzzles, math, statistics, programming, computers). For more information: 

Data Science Education

Through the MINDS Program, students engage in personalized and hands-on data science training and mentoring by working one-on-one with School of Data Science graduate students while simultaneously participating in social skills and executive functioning training with cohort peers. The data science curriculum focuses on building Python coding skills and basic data exploration and analysis methods. For more detailed information, see Programs and Courses.

Preparation for the Workplace: Social Skills Training

The Program incorporates small-group participation for students to learn and practice social skills and executive functioning skills that are essential for workplace success. The curriculum emphasizes promoting self-confidence, working well with others, decreasing anxiety about social interactions inherent to the workplace, and building organizational, time-management, and flexible problem-solving skills. Group sessions will be led by graduate students in psychology and overseen by a licensed psychologist. 

Employer Connections

MINDS Young Adult Program staff will help identify job shadowing or internship opportunities with employers that present an opportunity for students to continue to learn on-the-job skills alongside data science professionals, creating potential for long term employment.

Services provided to program participants are individualized and based upon neurodiversity documentation, functional limitations, and a collaborative assessment of needs. They include standard accommodations provided through the Student Disability Access Center (SDAC).

This pilot program is being offered as part of a research study supported by Jefferson Trust grant funding. (IRB-SBS# 4380, Principal Investigator Erica Rouch;