Imagine a teacher being able to recognize a student’s feelings based on an automatic analysis of facial-recognition data. While it sounds far-fetched, it’s really not, said Joaquín Carbonara, professor of mathematics.
“I could put a camera in my classroom and record students’ faces and analyze them with deep learning computer code,” he said. “I would know students' sentiments from the computer analysis of their facial expressions instantly and use the information to improve their learning. It’s crazy.”
While Carbonara isn’t putting a camera in his classroom anytime soon, it’s an example of what’s possible through the rapidly growing field of data science. And Buffalo State now offers a master of science in data science and analytics for students wanting to leverage this new technology.
Data science is composed of several distinct disciplines, all of which use and analyze data sets to discover solutions to problems. Starting the program was a way to give Buffalo State students another option to work in a cutting-edge field, Carbonara said.
“It was a natural evolution to move to data science, where we could pick a curriculum for people who are not math majors and yet want to be part of this information revolution,” he said.
While data has been analyzed for years, data science has grown and evolved over the last decade, Carbonara said. It’s no longer just computer scientists who are interested in the field.
“Now a wider range of people are interested in using data to do the work and make data-driven decisions,” he said, noting that it’s used in many disparate fields, including health care, banking, technology, law enforcement, and marketing.
The 30-hour (10-course) program will provide students with an in-depth look at the data cycle, from data collection and cleaning, to “munging” the data and analyzing it. Data munging, or data wrangling, is transforming data from its raw form into something more usable.
“Students can expect an in-depth exposure to the entire cycle,” Carbonara said. They will also learn about data-oriented programming, geospatial programming, and machine learning.
Data scientist positions are valuable—and lucrative, Carbonara said. A variety of organizations, from private businesses to local municipalities, are looking for help in analyzing data, which has sometimes been sitting around for years.
“Basically, they bring value to the company by exploring the data and giving the administrators and decision-makers better tools to do the job, and better information,” he said, referring to data scientists. “It’s a coveted and valuable position.”
More than 30 students are currently enrolled in the program. It’s an exciting program to be a part of, Carbonara said, because of the potential it can unlock.
“Things that were only doable before by NASA or advanced labs are now at our fingertips. It’s really extraordinary.”
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