New undergraduate program in data science announced


Undergraduate students at the University of Michigan have a new major course of study to choose from — one that is highly relevant in this age of “Big Data.”

Developed jointly by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in the College of Engineering and the Department of Statistics in LSA, the new multidisciplinary data science major will be offered for the first time this fall to LSA and CoE students.

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“Our world is exploding with data,” said Marios Papaefthymiou, chair of computer science and engineering and professor of electrical engineering and computer science. “Massive amounts of data in the form of text, audio, video and sensor measurements are routinely collected in science, health care, business, industry, as well as by government and society at large.”

The need to unlock this data and extract actionable knowledge is pressing for those looking to make new discoveries in science and engineering, and the ability to do so is expected to fundamentally impact the way in which businesses and lives are led.

The new program in data science addresses this need, said Tailen Hsing, chair and Michael B. Woodroofe Collegiate Professor of Statistics.

“Data science has emerged as an exciting field of study with many opportunities. It combines relevant areas of expertise from computer science, statistics, mathematics and information science,” Hsing said. “Students in the program will learn how to use these techniques to address substantial real-life applications.”

Key to the program is bringing together practices from computer science and statistics — such as database management, algorithms, visualization, statistical modeling, machine learning and inference — in order to adequately manage, analyze and interpret data at scale.

“There is a pressing need for qualified individuals possessing the intellectual tools, breadth and perspective to work in this space,” said Atul Prakash, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who spearheaded the program’s design along with Professor Vijay Nair, Donald A. Darling Collegiate Professor of Statistics, and professor of statistics, and industrial and operations engineering. “This program is designed as a springboard for this new class of experts.”

Students in the program will be exposed to both the practical use of data science methods as well as the theoretical properties underpinning the performance of the methods and algorithms.

“The University of Michigan is among the earliest universities to offer an undergraduate program in data science,” said Kerby Shedden, professor of statistics and biostatistics, and co-chair of the data science faculty steering committee.

“Graduates from our program will be in great demand, as recent projections indicate a huge shortfall of people with skills in data science. Our students will also have the necessary background to go to graduate programs in a number of different areas.”

Electives for the program expose students to a wide range of application areas, from earth and environmental systems through computer vision and the modeling of infectious diseases, allowing students to tailor or broaden their experience as desired.

Capstone projects will be designed with input from industry, and will afford students the opportunity to develop solutions for real problems. The program will help prepare graduates for exciting careers in data science and for advanced study in the field.


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