New Data Science Degree Offers Launch Pad into Analytics Career

Mitch Hill


Data science involves much more than crunching numbers, and a new bachelor’s starting this semester reflects the wide range of disciplines involved.

Data science is the process of exploring and interpreting the world through data. The Data Science B.S. calls the Department of Statistics and Data Science home, but students in this emerging degree can also expect to study mathematics, computer science and industrial engineering and management systems.

“Pursuing a degree in data science will give students vital experience and preparation for becoming leaders in the data-driven economy of the future. It will prepare students to understand and engage with the sweeping technological changes that will be brought by data science (and artificial intelligence),” said Assistant Professor Mitch Hill, Ph.D., director of the Data Science Lab.

The need for the new degree emerged from an increasing demand for data scientists. The American Statistical Association reports that nearly 70 percent of business leaders in the United States will prefer job applicants with data skills in 2021. Chair of the Department of Statistics and Data Science Professor Shunpu Zhang, Ph.D., anticipates the demand will only continue to grow.

“That is why we started to prepare for this program,” Zhang said. “Students will now have a hands-on experience and after they graduate they will be ready for the real data science world.”

Aspiring data scientist and student Nicolas Alvarez defines data science as the art of using past data to make future predictions. Alvarez first heard about the data science degree this past spring. At the time, Alvarez was majoring in statistics and immediately signed up for classes after UCF launched the new data science major in the Fall.

“When I learned about concepts in data science and machine learning on YouTube, it felt like I was learning about myself. I think this is what makes the Data Science degree at UCF a perfect fit for me.”

The data science program at UCF is separated into basic, advanced and elective level courses. The basic level courses mix mathematics, statistics and computer science courses to form a foundation for the program. Advanced courses prepare students to become data scientists by creating an open space for creative and driven individuals to adapt and use state-of-the-art machine learning and statistical tools to convert data into useful models of the world.

Students will also have hands-on experience processing data with the Data Science Lab in the Department of Statistics and Data Science. The Data Science Lab gives students access and training with powerful GPU machines that are needed for advanced models. The Data Science Lab is the only UCF facility where undergraduates can directly access GPU resources.  A wide variety of data science tools such as Python, R, and SAS are available to students on the lab computers.

Hill said that he looks forward to the future of data science as it will create new opportunities for students to pursue careers in the “ever-changing technology of our time and age.”


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