Recognizing that modern data science goes beyond any one discipline, the newest major at UC Davis will pull together courses from several departments to provide foundational data science skills that students can apply to a broad range of specialties.
UC Davis will debut its new interdisciplinary data science major in fall 2022, providing a career pathway for undergraduates who plan to become leaders in this cutting-edge field. A collaborative effort between the College of Letters and Science and the College of Engineering, the data science major will prepare students to collect, manage and analyze data, to consider the ethical and societal impacts of data science, and to communicate their discoveries effectively. Other campus units may also contribute to the collaborative program in the future.
“Our innovative curriculum responds to the tremendous interest in data science skills from students, faculty and employers,” said Professor Alexander Aue, chair of the Department of Statistics and head of the Data Science Steering Committee. “There is a huge demand for a data science major at UC Davis.”
Data science is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, with projected job growth of 31% between 2019 and 2029, and 11.5 million job openings by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In response to this demand, a 2018 report from the National Academy of Sciences recommended “academic institutions should embrace data science as a vital new field that requires specifically tailored instruction delivered through majors and minors in data science, as well as the development of a cadre of faculty equipped to teach in this new field.”
As Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan has remarked, “This new data science major is an exciting and important addition to our university’s academic programs. It will bring significant benefit to our students while they prepare for and pursue their careers, and it will help to produce the leaders and other professionals in data science that our country will increasingly need.”
The data science major will launch with a foundations track focused on statistics, mathematics and computer science. New introductory course sequences and upper-division courses have been added in statistics and computer science. As the major grows, the steering committee plans to expand student learning opportunities with an additional applications track that bridges colleges across campus.
“Students in the data science major will benefit from partnerships across disciplines available at UC Davis,” said Ari Kelman, interim dean of the College of Letters and Science. “Adding this new major will help us meet our mission of research and service.”
Complementing other programs
While the data science major is a new initiative, learning opportunities in data science have been available to students at UC Davis for many years. The principles of data science are taught in a wide variety of disciplines, and student research and internship opportunities abound.
UC Davis faculty also founded two data science centers in 2019: the Center for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Research, or CeDAR, and the UC Davis TETRAPODS Institute of Data Science. The Department of Statistics also offers a data science track in its master’s degree program and a statistical data science track in its Bachelor of Science program. However, the data science major is unique due to its integration across disciplines, Aue said. “This major will really play to campus strengths,” he said.
— Becky Oskin, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science