Department of Statistics Breaks New Ground with Major in Data Science
Data science continues its positive trend at Northwestern, with the statistics department launching a new major in data science next fall.
The department will also draw on its minor in data science to accommodate a growing number of interested students, said professor of statistics Arend Kuyper, director of the minor in data science. He said the program has grown in popularity since its launch, growing from 76 students in fall 2019 to 349 in fall 2021. The growing relevance in today’s world of work has spurred l interest in the field of data science, Kuyper said.
“Data is everywhere,” Kuyper said. “It is becoming an essential part of many fields and it is being collected everywhere. People have it and they have to know what to do with it – they have to figure out how to use it in order to make decisions.
Weinberg junior Polina Cherepanova, who just added the minor in data science, said her entry-level data science class is the largest class she is taking this fall, with around 100 students.
Cherepanova said she enjoys the customization of the data science streak and the way she completes her biology degree and research. The department offers introductory courses to Python and R.
“I love programming and writing code and just learning new coding languages,” Cherepanova said. “I also like math and statistics, so I thought it would be a good combination of the two and something that I would appreciate.”
The new major, Kuyper said, will allow students to delve deeper into statistical theory and the mathematics underlying typical data science content. He also said the major will require a greater variety of courses.
Enrollment in data science courses is currently limited to students who have declared a minor in data science or a major in statistics, as the number of interested students exceeds the limited class capacity, Kuyper said.
“The statistics department was fortunate enough to hire a few new teachers – professors to help teach these courses – so we were able to serve everyone, but it’s very, very tight right now,” Kuyper said. .
The department has been working to increase the program’s resources and accommodate as many interested students as possible, Kuyper said.
Weinberg senior Erica Tashma, a self-proclaimed “data nerd”, added the data science minor in her sophomore year when she was first introduced. His studies have included topics such as data discussion, data visualization, and predictive analytics.
Tashma said the support from professors in the statistics department sparked her interest in the data science minor. She added that the program has significant appeal to students because of its relevance to the job market.
“It’s really interesting that if you have the expertise in machine learning, (artificial intelligence) or data science, there are a lot of jobs waiting and places that want those skills,” Tashma said. “It’s something good to add to a Northwestern education. “
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