MTSU launches master’s program in data science

Qiang Wu, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, center, director of the university’s new master’s program in data science, works with students, from left, Lindsay Rogerson, Curtis Corazao, Wu, Afsaneh Caden and Ray Hill at the Data Dive event held on June 18, 2022, inside Kirksey Old Main. (MTSU Photo by James Cessna)

MURFEESBORO, Tenn. – Qiang Wu, director of MTSU’s new master’s program in data science and a professor, knows from his more than 10 years of teaching and research that data science solves real-world problems.

“I think data science and artificial intelligence will be key powers to develop technology and change the world,” Wu said.

After graduating with its first cohort of undergraduate degrees in the spring, MTSU launched the new master’s degree program — the first cohort slated to begin this fall — to teach students advanced data science skills, so they’re still more competitive when they enter this booming and innovative industry.

“Our target population with the master’s program are students who have a strong intention to develop a career in data science and who should be able to analyze a large amount of data and perform other high-level tasks. level immediately after graduation,” Wu said.

Prospective students are not required to hold a data science-related degree to qualify: the minimum entrance requirement is a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 2.75.

“Basic courses will be available to help students with skill gaps,” Wu said.

The creation of the master’s program as well as the university’s already existing graduate certificate, doctoral and undergraduate data science programs reflect the growing market demand for data science professionals.

Employment statistics from the Bureau of Labor predict an increase in data science-related job growth in Tennessee above the national average, Wu said. Additionally, the Higher Education Commission of the Tennessee has been working with post-secondary institutions since 2020 to increase the number of computer science and data analytics degrees by 20% over a five-year period.

“With the (added) move of high-tech companies such as Amazon and Facebook to the Midstate, I believe that 20% does not overestimate data science career growth in the Nashville area over the past five to next 10 years, although a figure is not available,” Wu said.

Amazon plans to add 5,000 new business and technology jobs with its downtown Nashville office slated for completion in 2023. The first of two construction projects is operational in fall 2021 with 2,500 employees already hired. Facebook’s data center in Gallatin, Tennessee, is expected to be operational in 2023 and hire 100 new employees.

Moreover, Wu added, the industry is not limited to the field of technology. Any company or organization that collects data needs the help of a data scientist to decipher and use it.

Hailing from China’s Shandong Province, Wu’s broad interdisciplinary background in machine learning, statistics, mathematics, actuarial science, and business analytics makes him an ideal candidate for data science, did he declare.

He and other faculty from several different departments have designed the master’s program with the same interdisciplinary philosophy in mind to provide graduates with relevant and applicable skills for the variety of industry opportunities.

“There’s great flexibility in programming to meet each student’s unique needs,” Wu said. “It’s interdisciplinary in nature with instructors from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and Jones College of Business. Students can also take elective courses in specialties from several different departments to best suit the industry they are interested in.

Although spots in this fall’s inaugural cohort are currently full, Wu said the faculty is closely monitoring enrollment and encouraging students to apply until the July 31 deadline to get on the roster. waiting or to apply before the December 31 deadline for spring 2023 admission.

Infinite potential

David Jean, one of the 20 students in the first cohort of the master’s program, is interested in data science because of its infinite potential.

“Society is producing data at an exponential rate, and the need to be able to work with it seems like a truly invaluable skill!” says John.

Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, Jean graduated with a bachelor’s degree in data science from MTSU this spring and wanted to continue in the master’s program because he really liked the students and faculty.

“Students are always pushing each other to do their best and striving to do more while the faculty are always ready to genuinely engage and offer guidance,” he said.

Jean said he was grateful to the Data Science faculty for giving him so many opportunities and a great experience so far.

Lisa Green, associate professor of mathematics and director of the undergraduate program, helped Jean found the Data Science Club. Josh Phillips, associate professor of computer science, organized the 2022 hackathon event which Jean won, Ryan Otter, director of the Data Science Institute, offered Jean an internship, and Wu recently recruited Jean as a graduate assistant.

“The faculty has always been there for me inside and outside the classroom,” he said.

To learn more about the Data Science master’s program, visit the website here

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