U of W launches data science program

Stream will prepare students for the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’

This fall, the University of Winnipeg (U of W) is launching an undergraduate data science program, where “students will acquire enough skills and knowledge to work in different sectors as a data scientist or data analyst.” The university’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics is the first to offer such a program in Manitoba.

Dr. Anna Stokke, professor and chair of the department, says one of the main reasons this program was created is that “data scientists (are) in really high demand.”

“We thought it would be really good for our students and our program if we could prepare students for careers in that area,” she says.

Many recent reports have shown the job market to be very favourable for data scientists. A 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review even called it the “sexiest job of the 21st century.”

“Data science is in high demand in both government and industry,” Stokke says, adding that graduates could expect careers in a wide range of sectors, such as medicine, business, advertising, finance and insurance.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, data science has emerged as a crucial field in government, company and institutional public health responses. A recent article by data scientist Dr. Sarah Callaghan mentioned three important facets of the field that are useful for flattening the curve: data collection and interpretation, data modelling and prediction and data visualization and communication.

At the U of W, students can take data science as a stream of a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Statistics. This program involves a unique combination of courses that must be taken in applied computer science, mathematics and statistics.

Though exact enrollment numbers are unavailable, Stokke believes this program has already been well-received by students.

“Our core courses for that program have at least doubled in enrollment this year, so we think there is a lot of interest so far,” she says.

Dr. Zeinab Mashreghi, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Winnipeg. Supplied photo.

Dr. Zeinab Mashreghi, an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, says she is looking forward to teaching data science students.

“We are delighted to offer this undergraduate program for the first time in Manitoba,” she says.

Mashreghi is teaching Statistical Analysis I and Survey Sampling I this Fall, both required courses for the program.

“The main idea is working with big data sets,” she says, adding that compared to mathematics and statistics degrees, students of this program will gain more computer programming skills.

U of W’s Professional, Applied and Continuing Education division will also launch programs in the field of data science: the Predictive Analytics Diploma in May 2021 and the Artificial Intelligence Diploma in September 2021.

Published in Volume 75, Number 02 of The Uniter (September 17, 2020)

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