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University’s new Data Science minor prepares students for tomorrow

Jacksonville University works hard to prepare its students for jobs that don’t yet exist. That means creating courses and programs that cross disciplines and add value to any career.

The University’s Data Science minor, which launches this fall, lands directly in those categories.

Dr. Dan Moseley

“Data science is inherently interdisciplinary,” says Dr. Dan Moseley, associate professor of Mathematics, who will teach the program’s first course, Math 270 Introduction to Data Science, this fall. “It can help provide data-informed results in health sciences, banking, logistics – everywhere.”

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be approximately 11.5 million new jobs in data science by 2026. The business social media platform LinkedIn estimates a 650% increase in data science job growth since 2012.

“It’s a skill that’s in great demand. Even if you don’t pursue data science as a career, it’s a great bullet point to have on a resume. It will make you stand out,” says Dr. Moseley, who is also co-director of the University’s Undergraduate Research Program. “If you’re going into finance, it can help you build stock portfolios.

“In healthcare, data science is everywhere. Just look at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have had modeling that sophisticated. I often think this crisis would have been so much worse without what they have been doing.”

Models from the IHME that used COVID-19 mortality projections to estimate hospital bed requirements and deaths have drawn considerable attention, including discussion on national television news programs by Dr. Deborah Birx, Federal Coronavirus Response director.

Other universities and companies are using data science to address other areas of COVID-19 response, including contract tracing and identification of antibodies, Dr. Moseley says. Apple and Google, for example, are working on contact tracing phone applications, and Oxford University is developing methods to merge data from those and other contact tracing apps to make the data easy to search and research. There are other researchers working on using machine learning to search for coronavirus antibodies in blood samples.

“The utilization of a machine learning algorithm has  taken a process that used to take years down to weeks,” Dr. Moseley says.

The application of data science techniques, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, is the focus of Dr. Moseley’s first data science class this fall.

He says that he will introduce students to Python, one of the  most widely used programming language in data science, on the first day of class. From there, students will use data sets available on Kaggle, an online community of data scientists and machine learning practitioners, to solve real-world problems.

“When we started talking about a data science minor in 2016, we talked to local companies and University partners. We asked them what skills they wanted our data science graduates to have. They all said project-based learning is the way to go,” Dr. Moseley says. “We’re going to get hands-on  with real-world data sets starting from the first semester.”

Dr. Moseley first became interested in data science a few years earlier when he partnered with two colleagues to investigate the use of data science techniques to help automate security responses to cyber attacks. That research turned into a paper, “Spectral Clustering Technique for Classifying Network Attacks,” published in 2016 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It also led to Dr. Moseley’s continuing interest and research into data science.

“That was when I started to take a real interest in data science,” says Dr. Moseley. “I have a Ph.D. in pure math, but over the last few years I have transitioned to teaching and studying in the intersection of applied math, computer science and statistics.”

Seats are still available in Math 270 Introduction to Data Science. Contact Dr. Moseley or the Academic Advising Center for more information.