Careers in data science are among the most in-demand in today’s world, yet there are more jobs available than qualified individuals to fill them. The McKelvey School of Engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis are now offering a bachelor’s degree in data science to help meet this growing need. 

The program is a collaboration between the Department of Computer Science & Engineering in McKelvey Engineering and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in Arts & Sciences. Core faculty who will oversee the program include Marion Neumann, senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering; Ron Cytron, professor of computer science & engineering; José E. Figueroa-López, professor of mathematics and statistics and director of undergraduate studies, and Soumendra Lahiri, the Stanley A. Sawyer Professor in Mathematics and Statistics.

“Vast data can be collected to study problems in the world and in our local community, but analyzing and extracting meaning from data is a daunting task that requires foundational background in statistics and an understanding of computer science, specifically machine learning,” Neumann said. “Our new program will equip our students with both the lens and lever to collect, analyze and propose action based on data.” 

Data science is an interdisciplinary field that uses data processing, analytics, predictive modeling, statistical hypothesis testing and deep learning to extract meaning from data and use it to solve problems. 

“Our world faces an ever-increasing need to understand and act intelligently on the huge volume of data generated by and on behalf of its population,” Lahiri said. “Data science is a broad discipline and is rapidly expanding in applicability to business, natural and social science, and humanities, here in St. Louis and worldwide.”

Students interested in the bachelor’s degree program will apply to and be admitted through either Arts & Sciences or McKelvey Engineering, respective to the intent to earn a bachelor of arts (AB) in data science from Arts & Sciences or a bachelor’s of science in data science (BSDS) from McKelvey Engineering. Students from any school may study data science as a second major offered through McKelvey Engineering or Arts & Sciences.

“Our students are keenly interested in solving our world’s problems and helping people,” Figueroa-López said. “This new major harnesses our students’ passion for ‘doing well’ and ‘doing good.’”

For the major or second major, students will take 18 three-hour courses in computer science, mathematics and statistics, as well as electives and an ethics and professional responsibility course, then complete a practicum of about 10 hours a week during the junior or senior year. A new computer science & engineering course, based on one taught in the interdisciplinary Division of Computational and Data Sciences doctoral program, will be added to the curriculum.

“Students majoring in data science will have the formal foundation needed to understand the applicability and consequences of the various approaches to analyzing data with a focus on statistical modeling and machine learning,” Cytron said. “They will have the computing skills needed to ingest, manage and visualize data and will be able to program on their own.”

While existing undergraduate programs in computer science, mathematics and statistics and CS + Math provide courses in math, statistics and computer science, none of them offer the full breadth required for the theory and practice of data science or the computational methods and applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Students who earn the bachelor’s in data science would have the foundation for the master’s in data analytics and statistics in McKelvey Engineering and the master’s in business analytics in the Olin Business School.

For more information, visit the program page on the Computer Science & Engineering site and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics programs page.
The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 140 full-time faculty, 1,387 undergraduate students, 1,448 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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