U of A Expands Data Science Curriculum and STEM Scholarship Opportunities, Briefing Today

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In 2020, the U of A launched a unique undergraduate degree in data science.

Now, less than two years later, the program exceeds expectations and offers more students than ever the opportunity to participate in a rigorous, innovative and multidisciplinary learning experience that will prepare them to meet some of the greatest challenges. global data.

“We did not expect this number of incoming students until our fourth year. We are amazed and excited to continue to develop such an innovative program,” he added.

“We started our first cohort with 14 undergraduates in data science, and last fall our second cohort included 71 students, which is just amazing,” said Karl D. Schubert, associate director of the program. and professor of practice in the College of engineering.

Schubert and his colleagues attribute much of the program’s rapid growth and initial success to its unique structure, which gives students the opportunity to study with faculty from three colleges – the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

This means that students take a common set of introductory courses to lay the foundation for a data science education, then choose one of 10 specialty concentrations to focus on during their first year.

Concentrations include:

  • Cost accounting
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biomedical and health informatics
  • Business data analysis
  • Computer analysis
  • Data Science Statistics
  • Geospatial data analysis
  • Operations analysis
  • Social data analysis
  • Supply chain analysis

Samantha Robinson, director of data science at Fulbright College and teaching assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, said this approach gives graduates of the U of A’s data science program the ability to have a immediate positive impact on the workforce.

“Whether analyzing health data to improve patient outcomes, helping companies make smarter decisions, or addressing critical research needs, the ability to analyze huge datasets is a skill that will serve our graduates well, no matter what field they wish to pursue in data science,” Robinson said.

The data science program and degree was created in response to the growing need of organizations of all sizes and types to make sense of complex data sets, Robinson said.

In addition to being the first of its kind at the U of A, the program is unique among data science programs nationwide for its interdisciplinary curriculum. The course was designed using best practices from existing programs and feedback from an advisory board of industry executives.

For example, at Fulbright College, courses in the program range from a course on ethics and data privacy taught in the philosophy department, to programming languages ​​for data science taught by the biological sciences and science departments. mathematics, principles and techniques of data science. taught in the Department of Geosciences.

“As technology advances, businesses, governments, researchers, and nonprofits across all fields and disciplines are collecting more data than ever before,” said Manuel Rossetti, Data Science Program Director and Professor. of university at the College of Engineering. “The question now is how best to use this data to make smarter decisions.”

In addition to its unique coursework and structure, Rossetti said the program also offers plenty of scholarships. For example, the Multidisciplinary Data Science (MDaS) Scholarships, sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The MDaS scholarship program is designed to increase the graduation rate of underrepresented STEM undergraduate students interested in careers in data science.

The program is open to all STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and math – but preference is given to students enrolled in the data science curriculum and data science-related disciplines, including industrial engineering, computer science and computer engineering, physics, biology and mathematics with a specialization in statistics.

The MDaS Scholarship Program is hosting an in-person information session from 5-6 p.m. today, Tuesday, January 25, at Bell 2286. Interested students can register online.

Todd Shields, Dean of Fulbright College, said he encourages all STEM students to explore this and the many other scholarship opportunities offered by the college and university, and also check out the science curriculum. data.

“Our students are so lucky! All of the professors involved in the University of Alberta data science program are absolutely phenomenal,” Shields said. “They excel at helping our students learn to use data analytics for everything – from research to health care to informed decision-making – which is a skill set that can improve our lives. students, who in turn will do the same for others in Arkansas and around the world.”

For a deep dive into data science curriculum training, check out this Brief Talks from the Hill podcast with Karl Schubert.

Additionally, Schubert and Rossetti presented a paper outlining the development of the data science curriculum at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) national conference last summer. Read it online.

Then visit the online data science program to learn more, access resources for students who want to apply, and get information for companies interested in partnering with the program for projects or internships.


A version of this story also appeared in Fulbright REVIEW.

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