Mathematics + Computer Science + Statistics = Data Science

By Elisabeth O’Donnell

The faculty board recently approved a data science major and minor geared toward students interested in both mathematics and computer science, many of whom already combine the subjects on their own. Students striving toward statistical research based careers would most benefit from the data science program. Data science majors could also work in particular fields such as biology where the research gets transformed into charts and graphs for the public. A statistics major and minor was also approved by the faculty board. According to Michael Larsen, professor of statistics, who presented both majors to the faculty assembly on Nov. 17, Statistics and Big Data are critical in business, media, government, science, and society.

“It’s definitely a new trend job wise, the programs at other colleges that I know of are all fairly new and not everyone has the program at this point,” said Greta Pangborn, chair of the computer science department.

“The student interest has already been there,” Pangborn added. “Students have been doing a combination of math, stats and computer science for a number of years, and there are already a number of graduates working in those areas. This will do a better job of providing students with a program that entails what they need for a data science job, rather than assuming that they have space to double major in already extensive fields.”

Pangborn also said that students may pick up the data science minor after realizing that their studies in a different field require a large amount of data analysis. Students in fields such as environmental studies or psychology may realize that there are specific data skills needed to expand on their research, skills that computer science or math alone cannot provide. “Assuming that students could just double major in math or computer science to hone these skills takes away their freedom to do some other electives that provide them with data application opportunities,” Pangborn said.

Pending approval by the Board of Trustees, it’s likely that both majors will be open to incoming first years next fall. Current juniors could aim to complete either minor next year,
enhancing their field research capabilities