Mastering Data Science

MDS program faculty.

Ramon Lawrence (left), John Braun and Jeff Andrews.

New 10-month program to provide training in one of Canada’s fastest growing career fields

A recent CBC article proclaimed data is now the world’s most valuable commodity, going so far as calling it as “the new oil.” That seems to confirm recent trends that show data scientists are in high demand and enjoy some of the best wages and work-life balance of any career option out there.

Starting in 2018, UBC’s Okanagan campus will be offering a 10-month Master of Data Science (MDS) program to give students the kind of training that will allow them to pursue careers in this rapidly growing field. To learn more, we sat down with three of the program’s key faculty members: Dr. Ramon Lawrence (program coordinator), Dr. John Braun and Dr. Jeff Andrews.

How is data changing the way we think about the world?

Lawrence:

Analyzing data is changing how we approach problems and develop solutions. New innovations and techniques are evaluated by using data to understand exactly how systems work. Rather than relying on human intuition, data analysis allows for measurable, repeatable progress.

Andrews:

People think of data as numbers in a spreadsheet, but it is really just the digital format for information. The end goal is still actionable information: 'when should I plant these seeds in my garden?’, ‘who should I market this product to?’, ‘which of these options is the riskiest investment?’ — but the process is driven by data scientists from start to finish, and most importantly provides reproducible results.

Why do companies and institutions need data scientists?

Andrews:

In almost all scientific, industrial and government landscapes, we’re seeing increased data collection and analysis. The results from thoughtful management and modelling of data can and should increasingly be the driving force for decision-making — but it requires a generation of professionals knowledgeable about the nuances of said management and modelling. The staggering amount of data being collected means that we require machines to do some of the heavy lifting, but ultimately human handling, judgement-driven analyses and careful reflection is the only viable procedure to generate value from data. This is what data scientists provide.

What does UBCO’s MDS program offer prospective students?

Braun:

The MDS program offers students with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than data science an opportunity to acquire skills in coding and scripting as well as database management and modelling that complement their previous education.

Lawrence:

The program provides intensive training in data science and data analytics with key marketable skill sets in demand by employers. Graduates learn how to process data efficiently and effectively and apply the techniques in diverse environments.

Why was it designed as a 10-month professional program?

Lawrence:

The MDS program is designed as a 10-month professional program to allow previous university graduates to quickly build up the skill set necessary to perform data analytics jobs. Students have already taken a university degree and will supplement it with data science skills.

What real-life scenarios can students expect from the MDS capstone course?

Lawrence:

Real data is messy, incomplete, and challenging but holds the promise of future insights. By going through the same process that data scientists use in their employment, students develop the important skills needs for future careers.

Braun:

In short, students can expect to encounter real data problems that companies and government agencies are tackling.

Learn more:

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