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New Major Addresses Fast-Growing Field of Data Science

Patrice Conrath, associate professor of mathematics, assists two students on a project. Conrath along with Deborah Thomas, associate professor of math and computer science, have helped to develop a new major in mathematics and data science that will provide graduates with more job opportunities in the field of data science.

The Department of Math and Computer Science announces a new Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Data Science.

In recent years, “big data” has emerged as a critical field for organizations to make strategic decisions about their internal business units, customers, and products. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an 11% growth in the field through 2024, which is an above average rate. Bethel recognized the need to create a more specific pathway for preparing the next generation of data scientists, and the new mathematics and data science degree will do just that.

Deborah Thomas, associate professor of math and computer science, explains that preparations for this major have been in process for a while. “We were already offering the courses, getting students exposed to the field that is very hot right now,” she says. Since data science can be applied to any field, this major will allow graduates to enter the job market with ease. “The amount of data being collected is constantly increasing and will never go away,” says Thomas. “Most often, we have acquired a ton of data with no easy way of extracting hidden patterns from it. Data science allows us to do that easily. The number of opportunities for our students will only increase.” 

Thomas adds that the math and data science major is a natural expansion to a department with steady graduate numbers, a near 100% job or graduate school placement rate, successful alumni, and numerous accolades of its math and computer science students and faculty.

Faculty have monitored the math and computer science marketplace for many years and carefully tracked the jobs and graduate programs our alumni enter. Conversations with several alumni now working in the data science field supported the idea to develop a focused major. From those conversations and evaluation of the surprisingly few other data science programs in the country, the proposal was written. The major is a blend of courses from both the math and computer science perspectives. Applied math courses in topics like algebra, calculus, and discrete math, with a particular emphasis on statistics, will build students’ math-thinking abilities in addition to their math abilities. These are joined with the other side of data to develop foundations in computer science—understanding the systems, structures, and programming that produces the data—as well as the Data Mining course.

Thomas and Patrice Conrath, associate professor of mathematics, led the proposal development for the major. They collaborated with colleagues in the business and economics department to include the Business Analytics course as another special requirement of the major. While data science is much different than business analytics overall, the two are complimentary. Faculty from both departments agreed that this course would benefit students, helping them see the application of the data science to impacting business goals and providing additional skills they will put to use immediately in the job market.

Visit the major webpage for more information about this new degree. 


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