Dr. McKay is a collaborative data scientist, with experience drawing inference from data collected by large, multi-institutional physics, astronomy, and education projects. In astrophysics, his main research tools have been the Chicago Air Shower Array, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Dark Energy Survey, and the simulations which support them all. His team used data from these tools to probe the growth and nature of cosmic structure as well as the expansion history of the Universe, especially through studies of galaxy clusters and gravitational lensing.
In education, Dr. McKay works across the lines between research and practice to understand and improve student outcomes. His team’s work relies heavily on learning analytics, using institutional data to explore equity, inclusion, and student success. In 2011, he began developing the ECoach system to deliver computer-tailored feedback, encouragement, and advice to tens of thousands of students. In 2014, McKay launched REBUILD, an interdisciplinary NSF funded effort to increase the use of evidence-based methods in introductory STEM courses. The following year, he helped to establish the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, an education technology accelerator within the UM Office of Academic Innovation. REBUILD and DIG led directly to the proposal and 2017 launch of a $5 million campus-wide Foundational Course Initiative in Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The FCI provides a central focus for McKay’s work today.