College offers new interdisciplinary minor in growing data science field

The new data science minor will include courses in computer science, statistics, psychology, and philosophy. (Photo by Brandon Marin)

Data science is a growing industry, with a projected job growth of 28 percent by 2020, according to Forbes magazine. In response to this growing demand and student interest, the college has added a new data science minor that will be available to students starting this semester.

The minor was approved by faculty and administration last spring, and will help support students across economics, biology, and statistics. It was created by faculty in the computer science and economics departments.

Professor Chun Wai Liew, associate professor of computer science and the department head, was one of the professors involved in the creation of the minor. He said that the collaboration across fields involved in creating the minor is indicative of the versatility the program will have in supporting students. 

“The fact is that if you are a mathematician, you are not just doing mathematical analysis, but you can use computational tools and you can learn the different ways of presenting information, all of that is data science,” he said. “The same thing goes for economics, which is becoming more and more quantitative. The same for biology.” 

In addition to courses in computer science and statistics, courses in biology, economics, psychology, and international affairs will all contribute to the minor.

According to Liew, the intent of the minor is to “help prepare students who want to do some significant amount of data analysis in their major.” 

While students can start completing minor requirements this semester, new data science courses, including Principles of Data Science and Intro to Data Modeling, are not yet available. Principles of Data Science, according to Liew, will be available next spring and requires a prerequisite statistics and computing courses.

Liew added that the new minor is distinct from the existing computer science program, and can be used as a supplement for students in and out of computer science who want to focus on data analysis.

“Computer science is focused more on software development and data science is much more focused on using existing tools and extending them using their full capabilities,” he said. “Usually, you want to combine [the minor] with something else.”

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