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New Master's Program to Foster Deep Data Fluency

October 25, 2016

Data Science at Brown
Jeff Brock, director of Brown's new Data Science Initiative, stands in front of a topological map of attributes found in CT scans of traumatic brain injuries. Data analysis approaches like this could help to better categorize injury types and better tailor treatments for individual patients.
Nick Dentamaro / Brown University 

A new one-year master's degree in data science will prepare Brown University students to be leaders in a data-enabled society. The new degree program is an early feature of Brown's Data Science Initiative, which was launched to catalyze new research programs to address some of the world's most complex challenges and provide students with innovative educational opportunities relating to "big data."

Brown's departments of mathematics, applied mathematics, computer science and biostatistics will serve as the initiative's hub, but a key focus will be to create a campus-wide community in data science, engaging students and faculty in life and physical sciences, social sciences and the humanities.

Ultimately, the initiative aims to ensure that scholars across Brown's disciplines become fluent with data in a way that encourages them to integrate data science into their teaching and research in novel and creative ways.

"Different types of data — genome sequences, data from social networks and medical records, to name just a few — are giving rise to entirely new frameworks and theories on how to extract meaning from data," said Jeffrey Brock, chair of the Mathematics Department and director of the initiative. "We want to explore fundamentally new techniques and methods for eliciting new knowledge from data."

The master's program, which began recruiting its initial cohort this month, will offer a deeper dive into the methods applied by data scientists. In addition to a core curriculum focusing on foundational mathematical and computational techniques, an elective class will let students explore particular applications of their choice. A capstone project will help students apply what they've learned to real-world questions and problems.

"The program aims to provide students with the deep data fluency necessary for leadership in data-centric careers," said Carsten Binnig, adjunct professor of computer science and director of the master's program. "Courses will provide a fundamental understanding of the tools of data science that students can apply in a huge variety of careers, whether in business, health care delivery, academic research or something else."

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article.