Wanted: Data science professionals

New degree program offers scholarships


By Bonnie Blankinship

Bowling Green State University is offering students with math and computer aptitude a new undergraduate program in data science. A limited number of $5,000 renewable scholarships are still available to help incoming freshmen get started on their degrees. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is March 31.

Funded by a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program and the scholarships are aimed at training data science professionals who can fill the critical need for collecting, managing and interpreting data. A McKinsey Global Institute report predicted that, “by 2018, the United States alone will face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills.”

Career opportunities in “Big Data” are growing rapidly as society tracks and collects data on everything from cell phone calls to grocery purchases. Business, medicine, sports and government are now able to make better decisions based on real data, but they need people who can make sense of the tremendous flood of information coming in every day, say Drs. Jim Albert and Maria Rizzo, mathematics and statistics. The two are leading the four-year NSF grant for the data science specialization, which includes a new, active-learning computer classroom.  

BGSU’s program, based in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, will integrate math, statistics and computer science. Graduates will learn the skills necessary to gather and organize data into a useable form, use statistical methods to explore data to detect patterns and generate hypotheses about relationships among the variables, learn from the data to make predictions, and communicate the results to people in decision-making positions.

“This new degree program fits in well with BGSU’s initiatives in the area of Big Data,” said Dr. Mike Ogawa, vice president for research and economic development. “The University already has one of the largest numbers of faculty in advanced statistics among the state universities, and the data science degree will help us build on our programs and better meet the needs of the state for qualified employees in the area of data analysis.”

Laying the foundation are courses in calculus and algebra for learning to describe and understand the world, followed by other classes in computer science and computer programing, statistical learning methods, and exploring and visualizing data.

A special feature of the program is a senior capstone experience working with real data from an area such as biology, geology or computer science. The skills data science graduates will possess may be used in any area where data may be used to make sound decisions, say Albert and Rizzo.

For more information on the data science program, contact Albert at 419-372-7456 or albert@bgsu.edu or visit the website.