UCSD to Offer Data Science Major and Minor Fall 2017

Photo courtesy of UCSD Communications.

The Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department held a town hall in Ledden Auditorium last Wednesday to discuss the newly established Data Science undergraduate program. The town hall aimed to answer questions about the program’s requirements and philosophy.

The Data Science program, open to all students starting September 25, 2017, is a new interdisciplinary major and minor administered by the CSE department and co-sponsored by Cognitive Science, and Mathematics departments. The new major, along with the minor, is expected to add 200 students per year and then grow to around 1000 students as it rolls out over the next four years. The minor will be open to all students excluding Jacobs School of Engineering majors and Math-Computer Science majors.

Although an interdisciplinary endeavor, CSE Professor Ramamohan Paturi, who spoke during the town hall, emphasized that the program is not being designed as a compilation of existing majors, but as a standalone major.

“We are rolling out the program specifically for Data Science majors and minors. We are not selecting a patchwork of courses from different disciplines,” Paturi said, noting that there will be no overlap between Data Science courses and pre-existing courses.

Along with the expected Data Science related major requirements, students pursuing the major will be required to gain expertise in a separate field of study to ensure data comprehension. Currently, the only recognized studies that fulfill this requirement are biology, chemistry, and physics, with the possibility of eventually including other majors like business and economics.

“There is no rationality behind it, but they wanted to start slow because getting a new program approved in the university is a nightmare,” Paturi said, when asked why the breadth requirement focused on the sciences. “[The program directors] wanted to minimize the nightmare and get it approved quickly and then reform it.”

Two prominent alumni are helping lead the charge for UCSD in Data Science: Facebook pioneer Taner Halicioglu, who recently donated $75 million to establish the Halicioglu Institute of Data Science, and former White House Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil, who popularized the term “data scientist” and will be visiting the campus June 8.

“The real world is extremely complicated and messy,” said Paturi. “The modest premise of data science is by making careful observations and gathering the data carefully, we may be able to gain some insight into the complicated questions.”

Mo Elew is a staff writer at The Triton.