Tom Ridge School forms M.S. in Data Science

The Tom Ridge for Intelligence Studies and Information Science finalized the formation of a master’s degree in Data Science, as part of a strategy to build a program catered to the needs of the 21st century economy.

“The master’s of Data Science spoke to where we see data going, which is largely dirty, unstructured, coming at you at a high rate of speed, terrific volume, huge variety of it,” James Breckenridge, Ph.D., dean of the Tom Ridge School, said.

The new degree is also a stepping stone to the creation a doctorate of Information Science, which will incorporate elements of the new Data Science master’s, as well as the master’s Applied Intelligence already on campus.

“We are shooting for the doctorate to start in the fall of 2016,” said Breckenridge. “So that’s ambitious, but we think we can get there.”

The new program is going to incorporate all elements of the existing Ridge School, along with faculty from the Math and Computer Science Departments. Dawn Wozneak, Ph.D., said there would be new faculty additions for the new program.

The structure of the program will mirror that of the current master’s in Applied Intelligence, where students will be full-time at Mercyhurst to complete the 36 credit requirements over two years.

There are also plans to offer parts of the degree online to working professionals who are unable to stop their careers and come to Erie, Wozneak said.

In addition to the traditional two-year master’s program, the M.S. in Data Science will also offer a 4+1 option for Mercyhurst students who are looking to earn the degree and wish to start before they leave undergraduate.

“It’s a way that they can start taking graduate courses while they are undergraduates, so they can finish it one year after they graduate,” Chad Redmond, Ph.D., chair of the Computer Science Department, said.

“It will also save them a substantial amount of money because they can get these courses under the flat rate.”

While details are still being worked out as to what the particular admissions process and criteria will be, the 4+1 program is open to all majors who wish to apply. The graduate courses section of the program would likely start in the junior year, Wozneak said.

“For a master’s degree, you’re talking about four classes, maybe a summer online course, so you’re talking about perhaps five courses at the graduate level, before you graduate.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the program comes with its core curriculum, which will incorporate elements of the Math and Computer Science Departments, as well as other programs, Wozneak said

While the core of the degree is focused on advanced concepts in data science, other departments were interested in offering courses for the program. Courses involving aspects of Public Health, Intelligence Studies and Business will be offered, depending on student interest, Wozneak said.

There is a need for capable data scientists in the current market.

According to a survey published in “Crowdflower 2015 Data Scientist Report,” 80 percent of respondents stated that there is a shortage of data scientists. According to the report, “these findings suggest that an increase in qualified data scientists would enable companies to balance workload and improve the overall breadth and depth of their data science capabilities.”