Atanasoff Today: New Data Science program prepares a new kind of scientist

by Amy Juhnke​​​​​​​


It’s not just Facebook that wants your data.
Organizations big and small constantly gather mountains of data. Apple or Fitbit may have detailed data about your cardiac health or your sleeping habits. Your energy provider knows the warmest minutes in your house. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have expanded the amount of data that can be gathered, but what do we do with all of it?

Thanks to the new data science degree program at Iowa State University, students are learning to visualize, interpret and communicate data output, and how to leverage data to make ethical, informed decisions and projections. The new program offers a major, minor and certificate options, all of which can significantly boost job prospects for students in any stage of their career.

In January 2019, for the fourth consecutive year, Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest online recruitment sites, named data scientist as the best job in America. The company estimates a $117,000 average salary for data scientists, and cites a current shortage of one million qualified professionals.

Feeding the Demand
Data science permeates all industries, from helping farmers maximize their harvest to informing the design of medical equipment or creating a clean water delivery system for developing countries. Graduates of the program will help individuals and organizations in virtually any field turn data into solutions and data-informed planning. Data scientists can make significant impacts on research breakthroughs, successful business operations and the ways in which vital information is communicated
to the world.

“Whether it’s daily news, food, energy, transportation, healthcare, banking, shopping, entertainment, air quality, housing—or virtually any industry—nearly every aspect of modern society is influenced by data-driven decisions,” said Hridesh Rajan, Kingland Professor of Data Analytics and professor in the Department of Computer Science. “Our students with data science skills will be well poised to provide the technical knowledge to inform those decisions.”

The broad impact of a degree in data science from Iowa State, is enhanced by the diversity of colleges involved in the multi-disciplinary program. Led by Rajan, the program includes faculty from Iowa State’s computer science, statistics, mathematics departments; as well as the engineering, business and design colleges. Students will emerge from the program with well-rounded knowledge of the computational, communications and scientific and ethical aspects of data science.

The new major was approved by the Iowa Board of Regents in 2018, just a few months after students were first able to officially declare the minor and certificate.

The data science minor is available to students enrolled in a baccalaureate degree program at Iowa State, while the certificate is available to students enrolled in a baccalaureate degree program or to those who have earned a baccalaureate degree.


Return to the Atanasoff Today main page here.