By Bradley Fargo, news correspondent
Northeastern students in the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) can now major in data science – a study that drives everything from transactions in the stock market to Amazon advertising campaigns and Netflix suggestions.
“A data scientist is someone who takes data from multiple sources, integrates it and uses machine-based technology to make predictions,” said Martin Schedlbauer, a Northeastern CCIS professor and the director of data science and information science majors.
According to Schedlbauer, degrees in data science are rare – especially in undergraduate programs – but there is tremendous interest from a variety of industries for those with data engineering skills.
Graduate students can also now enroll in two master’s programs, data analytics and data science. Currently, there is only one student enrolled on the graduate level and four students majoring in data science as undergraduates. Alexei Goldsmith, a freshman, is one of these four. He originally enrolled in computer science and mathematics, but he found out about the major over the summer and switched in.
“When I describe it to people, I say data science is like fancy statistics,” Goldsmith said. “When you get to modeling systems and classification of data, you get to use all these fancy algorithms. I don’t really understand them in this point of my career.”
At an internship last summer, Goldsmith identified cell membrane boundaries in high-definition brain scans in a lab at Harvard University. From April until early September, he worked at Carbonite, a cloud-based backup company, interning with the data analytics team on a model they could feed variables into to predict whether a certain customer would cancel their subscription.
Andrew Sy, a sophomore majoring in computer science and mathematics, says he is interested in the field.
Two summers ago, he worked for Zap, a retail company in the Philippines, creating a system that would use customer data to flag certain customers as fraudulent.
“I was basically catching criminals using my laptop,” Sy said. “It’s really cool how there’s a lot of data in the world. It’s only now that you can log all that stuff. But most people don’t use it all.”
Schedlbauer is currently teaching the only undergraduate data science course offered this fall – data collection, integration and analysis. The next level of courses will become available next semester. Interested students can apply to transfer into the program.
“You get to learn some statistics, data visualization, data modelling, cleaning data and also managing large amounts of data,” Goldsmith said. “I think it’s really intellectually challenging – it’s an area of research that’s gotten really big recently. It’s going to get bigger.”