UCF Launches Big Data Ph.D. Program

UCF’s Department of Statistics will offer one of the only Big Data Ph.D. programs in the world beginning Fall 2018.

The field of big data has recently exploded. As companies continue to collect more and more data about their customers, there is a gap to fill with an industry professional who can interpret it. Big data analysts take a massive set of both structured and unstructured data, and reveal patterns or trends that help companies make business decisions. The data is only as good as the analyst, and companies are looking to fill these positions. Every industry is boosting their investment for big data analytics in infrastructures, software and human resources.

Shunpu Zhang, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of the UCF Department of Statistics, says UCF’s strong industry partners will help make this Ph.D. an extremely successful program.

“As one of only several Ph.D. programs in the world, we anticipate that 90 percent of our graduates will attain employment in industry or government driven by the large demand and the remaining 10 percent will seek academic positions,” Zhang said.

Students in the Ph.D. program will not only work with data. The curriculum includes an interdisciplinary component that combines the strength of statistics with computer sciences. After graduation students will work in a variety of fields including banking, media and entertainment, government, insurance, natural resources and retail. The list of applications of big data analytics is endless.

Liqiang Ni, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator, says recently the Securities and Exchange Commission began developing tools to shift millions of trading records for law enforcement, and is also creating rules to prevent fraud and crash and to maintain a healthy market. That’s just another job opportunity for graduates.

“Another avenue for big data is DNA sequencing,” Ni said. “It provides huge amount of data for cancer research, for which big data analytics comes in to help identify patterns and links to the disease.”

The Ph.D. program requires 72 credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree. Ni says that students from a variety of different fields are encouraged to apply. Math, statistics or computer science majors are a solid background to make the dive into big data. People who have a bachelor’s/master’s degree in these areas and are already working as data analysts will make excellent candidates, and will enjoy a career boost after completely the program.

Ni says big data analytics is the new frontier for all corporate players, who face this challenge and opportunity that will increase their companies’ odds of long-term success. Some reports suggest that big data investments in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry alone will account for nearly $4 billion in 2017.

The Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the Big Data Ph.D. in June 2017, making it the only program of its kind in Florida. Learn more.

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