Introducing Lehigh's new MS in Data Science program

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Led by an interdisciplinary team of faculty, Lehigh’s new MS in Data Science program paves the way for graduate students to advance in their fields with some of today’s most sought-after skills.

When talking about data, bigger doesn’t always mean better.

“We’ve reached a point where getting more of the same kinds of data isn’t necessarily as helpful as it used to be,” says Daniel P. Robinson, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering who specializes in mathematical optimization and data science. “For some applications and problems, even if we had much more data, we wouldn’t see a significant benefit.”

Where there is room for improvement, he says, lies in developing new scientific approaches and tools to handle that data—and educating more people with the specialized mathematical knowledge and computational skills to make sense of it all.

Robinson is one of three Rossin College faculty co-founders of a brand-new cross-departmental master’s degree program focused on training the next generation of data scientists to meet that need.

“If you want to be on the cutting edge of almost any field, you need computational and data science expertise,” says Brian D. Davison, a professor of computer science and engineering. “If you can exploit your data in better and more intelligent ways—whether you’re a microbiologist or a civil engineer—you’re going to push your field further.”

Davison directs Lehigh’s undergraduate minor in data science and has taught the introductory course in the discipline for the past six years. Recently, he’s collaborated with Robinson and Parv Venkitasubramaniam, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, to design a data science master’s degree program that’s interdisciplinary from both faculty and student perspectives.

Lehigh’s new MS in Data Science program brings together professors from three departments—computer science and engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and industrial and systems engineering—to teach graduate students the fundamentals of data science from varying viewpoints.

On the flip side, the approach will allow students from a wide range of backgrounds to gain the qualifications necessary to tap into the wealth of data science jobs, many of which require an advanced degree. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in the field to grow more than 30 percent between 2020 and 2030; the current median salary for a data scientist is nearly $100,000.)

The program, which launches this summer, “will provide a new opportunity for people who want to develop data science skills, even if they don’t have a background in computer science or statistics, to get this valuable, in-demand credential,” says Davison.

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Source: RCEAS News. Article by Katie Kackenmeister, Assistant Director of Communications, P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science