The University will offer a new program in data science, beginning in the fall semester of 2015.
According to an e-mail sent to informatics students last month, the new Data Science program will ultimately take over the Data Mining and Information Analysis track within the informatics major. All students already pursuing the latter track can still finish it, or choose to switch over to a major in data science. Compared to the previous program, Data Science will be more interdisciplinary in nature, including courses in electrical engineering and computer science.
Vijay Nair, a professor of statistics and industrial and operations engineering, as well as one of several faculty leaders of this new program, said faculty have been discussing launching this program for about two years. He said they expect it to start small, but added that it will likely grow due to employer demand for candidates with data science training.
“There’s a lot of demand for people who are training as data scientists,” he said. “The field covers a number of different areas that no single department right now in LSA offers.”
The program will start with a major only, but Nair said he expects a minor will follow soon afterwards.
LSA junior Annemarie Ellman, who is currently on the informatics Data Mining and Information Analysis track, said she thinks data science is a huge field, especially for careers in information systems.
According to the Michigan Institute for Data Science website, data science is now widely accepted as a fourth mode of scientific discovery, along with theory, physical experimentation and computational analysis. A 2011 McKinsey Global Institute report estimated that the United States will face a job shortage by 2018 of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical skills.
Additionally, Ellman said the program will open doors for College of Engineering students. She said while informatics is mainly an LSA program, many of the additional classes required for Data Science are electrical engineering and computer science classes, which Engineering students have to take within their program already.
“Since data is a huge topic, especially big data, I think it will attract more College of Engineering students interested in pursuing something that focuses more on data science,” she said.
LSA senior Reid Mechanick, who is also on the data mining track, said in his experience, employers have found itimportant that he knows how to understand and analyze data.
Though he is a senior and already finished with most of his requirements, he said many younger students he has talked with are considering switching over to the Data Science program, and there’s lots of student interest in the program.