The CUSP Capstone Experience

Make an impact

Reducing Carbon and Driving Large Scale Energy Efficiency.

Predictive Modeling of Opioid Overdose Risk.

Mapping Construction + Demolition Waste Flows. 

How can you impact the cities of today and tomorrow?

NYU Tandon’s Center for Urban Science + Progress (CUSP) is proud to host its annual Capstone Program to serve its mission of finding data-driven solutions to increasingly complex urban challenges. 

Each year, graduate students in the MS in Applied Urban Science & Informatics degree partner with sponsors and CUSP faculty members to collaborate on a six-month project that seeks to address a critical urban issue or research problem. Project proposal applications for the 2023 program are now open!

How does it work?

It all starts with a question. Do you have a research problem or data-driven project that you’d like a little help with? Do you need access to both data science skills and deep policy knowledge to find a scalable solution? CUSP accepts project proposals from sponsors such as government agencies, private companies, academic institutions, think tanks, NYU faculty members–anyone who is also on a mission to make cities more equitable, efficient, livable, and technologically advanced. If accepted into the program, sponsors are paired with a team of three to five graduate students and a CUSP faculty advisor to embark on a six-month project spanning the spring and summer semesters. The timeline for the 2023 Capstone Program is as follows (subject to change):

October 15, 2022: Deadline for sponsors to submit project proposals

November 7, 2022: 2023 Capstones announced.

November 14-18, 2022: Meet and greet events between project sponsors, mentors, and students (virtual meetings permitted). 

November 21, 2022: Deadline for students to submit preferences for project assignments.

December 1, 2022: Student team + sponsor matches to be announced. 

December 9, 2022: Deadline for sponsors to submit data to be used in projects. 

January 26, 2023: First day of Urban Science Intensive I class.

May TBD, 2023: Spring milestone updates/presentations.

July TBD, 2023: Final deliverables due; Capstone presentations will be given at the Applied Urban Science Conference

Applied Urban Science Conference

The Applied Urban Science Conference is a full day event where CUSP students highlight all the work they’ve done over two semesters in their final capstone presentations. Open to the public, project sponsors, family, and friends of the CUSP community are encouraged to attend. Industry folks, city officials, and other researchers are also invited to learn about the progress made across research questions and to network with students. 

Project Details

Capstone projects approach real-world urban challenges through problem identification and scoping, data collection, and applying data analytics and visualization techniques. Typical deliverables include urban data analytic reports, data visualizations including interactive applications, research websites, research publications, and prescriptive policy solutions. 

The capstone program is the pinnacle of CUSP graduate students’ hands-on experience and is tied to required Urban Science Intensive I & II courses. Therefore, it is important that any potential sponsor is prepared to meet with their student team on a recurring basis and to provide support as needed. 

The best capstone projects are impact-driven and include a coherent, well-defined urban problem. An effective capstone project:

  • Ties directly to the needs of the sponsor organization as well as CUSP’s mission;
  • Identifies a discrete, tangible, and deliverable end product that can provide actionable insight;
  • Is quantitative and can be approached using a range of data science and informatics methodologies (e.g. network analysis, predictive modeling, machine learning, spatial analytics, etc.);
  • Requires data that is available and in-hand prior to the start of a project; and
  • Includes a supportive sponsor that will engage with the students, ensure access to necessary information, and assist with connecting student teams to appropriate experts and stakeholders.

Projects should fall under one of the following three categories: 

Program Highlights

Networking Opportunities

Sponsors are able to connect with future leaders of urban science as well as CUSP faculty and researchers, while students have the chance to see what various career paths look like.

Talented CUSP Student Teams

Capstone teams are made up of bright and hard-working graduate students with a diverse set of skills and cultural backgrounds to bring unique perspectives to research questions.

Publishing Potential

Deliverables for each project may vary but CUSP encourages sponsors to use their project outcomes to support their own goals and publication efforts.

Use Data & Technology for Social Good

CUSP's mission is to help cities improve so that the people in them can lead better lives. Capstone projects help us to take actionable steps towards a wide variety of observable problems.

Led by World-Class Faculty

All Capstone projects are facilitated through CUSP's faculty members, including experts in the physical and natural sciences, computer and data science, the social sciences, and engineering.

No Cost to Sponsors

There is no cost to project sponsors. All we ask is that you provide quality data, a research question that can sustain the length of the program, and time committed to meeting with student teams.

Who is involved?

CUSP Graduate Students

Capstone teams are composed of three to five CUSP graduate students who will possess a combination of technical skills ranging from data analytics, visualization, machine learning, data mining and processing, database management, modeling, and web integration, to strong abilities in real-world urban vision, social science, and public policy. These broad skills enable teams to utilize data science techniques within the constraints of political, social, and financial considerations, as well as to address issues of data privacy, validity, and transparency. Our students’ range of personal, academic, and professional backgrounds and rapidly developing skills in urban science and informatics techniques make them uniquely suited to assess and solve the increasingly complex challenges that researchers are focused on today. 

Project Advisors

For projects with external sponsors, CUSP adjunct faculty members are assigned as Capstone advisors to facilitate communication between sponsors, student teams, and course instructors as well as provide technical guidance. Advisors hail from a range of fields, from the physical sciences and math to social sciences and policy, and are assigned to projects specifically so that expertise and interests are aligned. Advisors supervise the graduate students and check in on a weekly basis, offering advice and assistance as needed. Advisors for the 2023 cycle are listed below. 

Mona Sloane

Mona Sloane, Ph.D.

Himanshu Mistry

Tricia Davies

Tricia Davies

Manny Patole

Course Assistants

Course assistants are available to help guide students through advanced topics as they work with complex data sets and policy issues. This year’s course assistants have a broad range of subject expertise, with backgrounds in computer engineering, industrial engineering, political science, international relations, transnational security, global risk, technology management, and business analytics. Contact them for an appointment or to sign up for office hours. 

Urban Science Intensive Course Professor

Portrait of Danielle Wright

Previous Sponsors

Past Projects

CUSP is an interdisciplinary research center–and our Capstone projects follow suit. Past projects vary widely and we encourage sponsors to be creative and imaginative when submitting proposals. 2022’s capstone projects also hailed from across the US and around the globe, taking what we learn using NYC as our lab and applying it to other urban centers such as Dallas, TX; Athens, Greece; Milan, Italy; and Bogotá, Columbia. The examples below represent a few of the topics covered during the last cycle, but future projects are not limited by these scopes. 

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A Tale of Two Cities: Assessing the state of the thermal environment for New York and Athens

Sponsor: Constantinos Cartalis, Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA); Anastasios Polydoros, Ph.D. Candidate, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA)
CUSP Faculty Mentors: Tricia Davies, Adrienne Schmoker

Mitigation plans to counteract overheating in urban areas need to be based on a thorough knowledge of the state of the thermal environment, most importantly on the presence of areas which consistently demonstrate higher or lower urban land surface temperatures (hereinafter referred to as “hot spots” or “cold spots”, respectively). This is because Land Surface Temperature (LST) is a controlling factor of energy exchange between the surface and the atmosphere, and thus a cause of meteorological and climatic variation. Such exchange is through latent and sensible heat as well as the emission of radiation at the thermal infrared part of the spectrum.

The main objective of the project was to develop and apply a methodological approach for the recognition of thermal “hot spots” and “cold spots” in New York City and Athens, during the warm months of the year. Results were analyzed separately for each city as well as in a combined manner in view of recognizing potential similarities which may be rolled out as urban typologies.

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A New Dataset to Develop Smart Assistants for Specialized Training with Augmented Reality

Sponsor: Iran R. Roman, Postdoctoral Scholar, NYU CUSP; Juan Pablo Bello, Professor and Director, NYU CUSP

Emergency response personnel (i.e. firefighters, medical personnel, and utility workers) require specialized training to act in time- and precision-sensitive tasks. Comprehensive training requires time, practice, and continuous guidance from a professional and experienced trainer able to predict and correct the trainee’s actions. The trainer-to-trainee ratio currently limits the amount of individuals who are trained at a time. Ideally, such training could be carried out by an automatic and smart agent using augmented reality devices like the Hololens. In this project, the objective was to develop a system for guided monitoring of a person’s actions as they learn a specialized task.

This project aimed to 1) Improve data quality with a new dataset of egocentric video and audio, where an individual receives verbal instructions from a third party; 2) Benchmark pre-trained machine learning models that carry out video summarization and audio-visual correspondence; 3) Evaluate action prediction models. Hence, the project’s question is: do multimodal egocentric recordings of instructed actions result in better annotations and predictions of human performance by an artificial agent? 

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Repairing Dallas: Leveraging data to improve housing quality

Sponsor: Ashley Flores, Senior Director (Housing), Child Poverty Action Lab; Owen Wilson-Chavez, Senior Director (Analytics), Child Poverty Action Lab
CUSP Faculty Mentor: Mona Sloane 

Housing quality matters for the mental, emotional, and physical health of residents, but the 2019 American Housing Survey reports that 27,600 housing units in the Dallas-Fort Worth Arlington MSA are severely inadequate. Research indicates that housing quality issues are more severe for people of color, people living in poverty, single parents, and renters. Although there is great need within Dallas’ housing stock, we lack actionable data to elevate the issue of housing quality, better direct limited resources, and advocate for more resources to ensure Dallas residents have a healthy home. Through this Capstone project, we aimed to leverage existing datasets to design a methodology for calculating housing quality at a smaller geographic unit in order to identify neighborhoods in Dallas where there is disproportionately poor housing quality that needs to be remedied. In addition, the CUSP team estimated the cost of housing repair needs in Dallas. Finally, the CUSP team developed a sampling and surveying approach to collect more granular data within neighborhoods indicating a high need for repairs. This framework can be deployed on-the-ground in Dallas in target neighborhoods to better understand specific needs and direct resources, like home repair programs, to units where they’re most needed.

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The Electric Commute: Envisioning 100% Electrified Mobility in New York City (TEC-NYC)

Sponsor: Robert Mieth, Postdoctoral Researcher, SEARCH Group, NYU Tandon; Yury Dvorkin, Assistant Professor, NYU CUSP

Every day, almost two million persons enter and leave the central business district of Manhattan using light-duty vehicles such as cars, taxis, vans, or trucks. Currently, around 1% of these vehicles are electric. This project aims to quantify the ramifications of a 100% electric commute in New York City. We will create a model that translates NYC’s transportation needs into electric charging demand, including emerging mobility trends (e.g., electric scooters) and remote work patterns. Interactive visualizations produced by the model will allow citizens, urban planners, and politicians to analyze the impact of mobility electrification and their policy decisions. The user will be able to change model parameters (e.g., how many commuters exchange their car for an e-bike) and observe the impact on the city’s power system. We will ask: Can you tune The Electric Commute to suit the city and its citizens? This project focuses on New York City, but the methodology will be transferable.

Frequently Asked Questions

For Potential Sponsors

We accept sponsor applications from all public, private sector, or academic organizations looking to address a critical urban issue or research problem. Our sponsors in the past have included city agencies across the US, international universities, and non-profits. Your organization does not need to be located in New York City or the United States, as long as you can provide regular communication with your capstone team.

New York University Community: Any NYU research center, faculty member, or researcher with a new or ongoing research project is welcome to apply!

A Project Agreement will be developed and executed, which describes the project purpose, scope, and expected outputs. This document will also outline data sharing protocols and any restrictions on shared data.

We seek project sponsors that are engaged and enthusiastic about the use of data science in improving city operations and planning. We expect project sponsors to identify a primary Point of Contact for the project who will ensure data sharing agreements are executed; will provide regular feedback on the students’ work, through periodic meetings and review of progress reports and presentations; and will be able to attend the final project presentations. The specific expectations and time commitment will vary by the needs of the project, but project sponsors should be able to commit 1-2 hours every two weeks to the above activities. Our student teams are very capable, and this level of engagement will help to ensure the final deliverables and output provide value for, and are of use to, the project sponsor.

Please review the Capstone Sponsor Mutual Expectations.

The CUSP Data Facility is a secure research data environment with datasets, tools, and expert staff to provide research support services to students, faculty, and city agency employees.  The CUSP Data Facility (CDF) connects all of these users to relevant datasets for urban policy research. The CDF reduces the multiple technical, legal, bureaucratic, capacity, and cost barriers to data access, so that the full research, policy, and operational benefits of data products can be realized by academic researchers and students, City analysts and managers, and other key partners in urban science.

We recognize that much of the data we manage, from streaming sensor data to agency administrative data, is sensitive and we handle it accordingly. The CUSP Data Facility’s Safe Data Environment comprises a multi-faceted approach to maintain safe data, through safe people, projects, settings, and outputs.  This approach combines technical protocols, user policies, and user-centered design in order to ensure adherence to data governance requirements.

  • Safe people: regular trainings on responsible data use and privacy & confidentiality,  combined with updated online resources on best practices in data management
  • Safe projects: standards and protocols for managing access to datasets and databases at the project level
  • Safe settings: a secure data environment with restricted data ingress and egress
  • Safe outputs: a statistical disclosure limitation prior to any export of products derived from restricted data

The Data Facility and Student Capstone Projects – CUSP students and faculty and host agencies are encouraged to perform all Capstone research within the Data Facility.  CUSP will process new project data and create project workspaces where designated team members can work with their project-specific datasets and collaborate on data analysis and visualization.  Other data facility users will not have access to the project workspace.

There is no fee associated with the Capstone projects.

Proposals can be submitted through this form. 

Capstone project group selection methods will be based on several criteria including students’ ranked preferences. Based on student interest, it is possible that an approved project may not be utilized. Demographics and competencies will also be considered in order to ensure group heterogeneity. Any potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed by project sponsors in advance. 

Project sponsors are able to provide input about what types of skills may be most useful to their project activities but will not be able to directly choose their student teams.

Please email cusp.capstone@nyu.edu with any additional questions about the Capstone Program.

For Students

Students enroll in USI I for their spring semester, and USI II in the summer session. Both are required courses and must be taken consecutively. Course registration dates are announced via email. 

Students are able to submit up to 5 preferred projects after viewing the Capstone catalog and attending the Meet & Greet, but selection is not guaranteed.

Students teams are carefully selected to ensure that a variety of skills and experience are included in the working group. Requests may be made, but are not guaranteed.

Classes are scheduled for Thursdays 6pm-8:30pm, but at it’s the discretion of the instructors to set the meetings.

Students can expect to spend at least 75 hours on their research project outside of regularly scheduled class each semester.