NSM, ECS create new degree plan

Some classes for the new data science program will be held in the new ECS West building. Photo by Ariana Hadden | Mercury Staff.

Beginning in the spring of next year, UTD will become the second university in Texas to offer an undergraduate degree in data science, a joint effort between the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Data science combines statistics and computational skills to extract useful knowledge from “big data,” which are large compilations of information obtained by a company and held in a computer system.

“Data science is new, in a sense, as one of the biggest employment points for people coming from majors like computer science and mathematics in that it emerged … when machines got powerful enough to deal with huge data,” said Vladimir Dragovic, the head of the mathematics department. “(Organizations) like NSA are one example of a big employer, but all kinds of industries are interested in incorporating this field.”

Gopal Gupta, the head of the computer science department, said the degree plan will be administrated by NSM but will also be jointly staffed by academic advisers from both schools. NSM and ECS also created seven new classes specifically for the major. Dragovic said the administration is attempting to create a degree that will prepare their students for the next 40 years of technological development.

“It’s not that we are just doing some mumbo jumbo from what we already have, but we really put a lot of thought into this and energy and creativity to want to have the right product for our students,” Dragovic said. “We want to have a solid background and a high-quality program, and we want our students to get more employable skills.”

Biomechanical engineering senior Delia Appiah-Mensah said a data science program will fulfill a necessity within both NSM and ECS, but the development of such a degree should be conducted slowly.

“I think there is a need for engineers and students in NSM who understand how to properly analyze data,” she said. “If they’re trying to fill that need, then that’s a good thing, but maybe they should alter our lab classes to include more data processing first and go from there.”

The degree will open for student registration in the spring of 2019.

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