Data science is more than a hot tech buzzword or a fashionable career; in the century to come, it will be an essential toolset in almost any field.
Tomorrow’s data scientists will need to combine a deep understanding of the field’s theoretical and mathematical foundations, computational techniques and how to work across organizations and disciplines.
Through the new undergraduate major in data science available in the 2021-22 academic year, University of Chicago College students will learn how to analyze data and apply it to critical real-world problems in medicine, public policy, the social and physical sciences, and many other domains. Students can select data science as their primary program of study, or combine the interdisciplinary field with a second major.
The new major is part of the University of Chicago Data Science Initiative, a coordinated, campus-wide plan to expand education, research, and outreach in this fast-growing field.
“It all starts with the University of Chicago vision for data science as an emerging new discipline, which will be reflected in the educational experience,” said Michael J. Franklin, Liew Family Chairman of Computer Science and senior advisor to the Provost for computing and data science. “We are expanding upon the conventional view of data science — a combination of statistics, computer science and domain expertise — to build out the foundations of the field, consider its ethical and societal implications and communicate its discoveries to make the most powerful and positive real-world impact.”
Building upon the data science minor and the “Introduction to Data Science” sequence taught by Franklin and Dan Nicolae, professor and chair in the Department of Statistics and the College, the major will include new courses and emphasize research and application. Through the new Data Science Clinic, students will capstone their studies by working with government, non-profit and industry partners on projects using data science approaches in real world situations with immediate, substantial impact.
“The courses will take students through the whole data science lifecycle, with all the concepts that they need to know: data collection, data engineering, programming, statistical inference, machine learning, databases, and issues around ethics, privacy and algorithmic transparency,” Nicolae said. “But for data science, experiential learning is fundamental. Students will partner with organizations on and beyond campus to advance research, industry projects and social impact through what they have learned, transcending the conventional classroom experience.”
“The College’s new data science major offers students a remarkable new interdisciplinary learning opportunity,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “The Core introduces students to a world of general knowledge useful for the active, but highly thoughtful practice of modern citizenship, while our brilliant majors enable students to gain active experience in the excitement of fundamental, pathbreaking research. I am delighted that data science will now join the ranks of our majors in the Collge, introducing students to the rigor and excitement of the higher learning.”