The Collegian
Friday, August 07, 2020

UR introduces Data Science and Statistics concentration

Jepson Hall, home to the mathematics department.
Jepson Hall, home to the mathematics department.

A data science and statistics concentration will be available to computer science and mathematics majors who are interested in learning more about the field of data science and its applications in the world starting this fall.

The concentration has two tracks, one designed for math majors and the other for computer science majors. The main difference between the two are the courses required, as each track has a few unique courses geared toward its focus. Preexisting courses for both majors satisfy some of the concentration's requirements, but new courses, such as Introduction to Data Science, were also created specifically for the concentration. 

The concentration is being introduced after both students and faculty expressed interest in its potential content, said Taylor Arnold, a statistics professor who helped spearhead the creation of the concentration.

“The idea was to start with what’s small," Arnold said. "'What’s the easiest thing to start with?'"

The process in creating the concentration was putting together a list of potential concentration courses from the math and computer science departments, Arnold said. Giving the lists of courses a concentration name allowed students to know where to take data science courses, he said.

Arnold specializes in the application of statistical computing and has been developing this concentration since his arrival at UR in 2016, he said. After multiple proposals to introduce upper-level statistical learning and data science courses, his proposal for a data science concentration was approved, Arnold said.

“Down the line, we hope to open [the concentration] up to other majors and see where it goes from there," Arnold said. "I don’t see it as this one, instantaneous thing that happened this year. It’s more of a continual cycle of things.”

Paul Kvam, a statistics professor and the mathematical economics program coordinator, worked closely with Arnold to help create and identify the courses that would be needed for the concentration, Kvam said.

Kvam said the concentration was aimed at people who had taken a lot of math classes and wanted to expand their knowledge. 

"The concentration funnels them so they learn not only basic statistics but they start learning some of the fundamental rules of probability and statistics,” he said. “Along with ideas of computer programming, they’re going to be learning how to extract information digitally from all sorts of places on the internet.”

Students are also excited by the new possibilities that the concentration offers. Stephen Owen, a junior majoring in computer science, is planning to take the concentration. Owen said that he finds the work that goes into data science a lot more interesting than the other sections of computer science.

“It’s just kind of like the subset of computer science that I like the most,” Owen said. “There's a very clear goal and I like that. It seems to be becoming the hot ticket item that a lot of companies are looking for."

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Contact news writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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