UConn’s New Multidisciplinary Master’s in Data Science with a Focus on Ethics Launches This Fall

From online streaming to healthcare systems, from retailers to researchers, the demand for experienced and skilled data professionals has never been greater.

UConn has stepped up to meet the need with the launch of a new interdisciplinary master’s program in Data Science and the first cohort of 20 full-time students starting next fall semester of 2022.

“The demand has been nothing short of extraordinary,” says Peter Diplock, assistant vice provost of UConn’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and co-director of the master’s program.

Based on the Storrs campus, the 11-month, 30-credit program draws on the expertise of faculty from five UConn schools and colleges: the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources; business school; engineering school; College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the Neag School of Education.

In addition to an 18-credit interdisciplinary core curriculum that includes a strong focus on ethics as well as design, programming, machine learning, and data analysis, students can choose from 12 different areas of concentration within the program that range from bioinformatics to cybersecurity and social and behavioral science. analytics.

“While the core set of knowledge for students who are interested in applying data science to something like marketing is the same as those who would apply it to health informatics, the way they apply it, the way they get the data, the way ‘How how you interpret data after it’s collected will be different for someone in marketing than someone in health informatics,” explains Kent Holsinger, UConn’s vice provost for graduate education, dean of the Graduate School, and co-director of the M.S. programs.

Interest was overwhelming and the diversity of interested students was evident. — Peter Diplock, Assistant Vice-Chancellor

“We wanted to make sure students had a good, solid foundation in the fundamentals of data science,” says Holsinger, “with the ability to specialize in areas of particular interest to them and for their careers.”

All students in the new Master’s program will complete a team capstone project where they will work on solving real-world problems and develop practical skills through experiential learning.

“We’re developing opportunities to work with employers in Connecticut, the region and beyond, on projects — the messy, sticky project problems that employers face every day,” Diplock says. “These projects are critical for students to develop key practical skills related to data integrity and quality, elucidating hypotheses, iteratively building models, and communicating ideas and implications.”

While the initial cohort will participate in the face-to-face program, the University plans to launch a parallel and fully online program in the fall of 2023, designed for people who are working but interested in improving their skills or changing careers.

“The interest has been overwhelming, and the diversity of the students involved has also been confirmed,” says Diplock. “When we envisioned this program, we envisioned a student with a bachelor’s degree in economics, education, business, fine arts, history, physics, or computer science. When I say it’s validating, it’s because we’ve seen exactly that, where the students who are attracted to this program come from a variety of prior academic backgrounds.”

Planning for the new program began four years ago when Diplock, who in his role at the University works to find program ideas, research them, shape them and bring them to life, received two proposals from two different department heads to launch new data science programs. He brought in a diverse team of faculty to explore the concept, connect with the industry, and really learn what knowledge and skills employers need from data science graduates.

“This was at a time when there was a lot going on around data analytics, but data science was really just emerging as a kind of separate field,” he explains, “and as I got a better understanding of the space, I became more convinced that it was a truly multidisciplinary space. Our degree is unique in that we have adopted and deliberately sought a multidisciplinary approach.”

The program focuses on ethics – although all students in the program are required to take a dedicated two-credit course in data ethics, ethical concepts have been intentionally woven into all elements of the curriculum.

“It’s very important when people are dealing with data, especially with these huge data sets that are now available and widely used, that they are very careful in thinking about how the data was collected, what biases might have been incorporated into the collection of the data itself , and then what biases might arise from using different algorithms,” says Holsinger.

“Models are inherently going to be imprecise,” says Diplock, “and we owe it to people to make sure our students have a deep understanding of the ethical implications of the models they’re building and are able to take those conversations head on, not sidestep them.”

For more information about UConn’s new master’s program in data science, visit masters.datascience.uconn.edu.

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