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Eberly's Data Science Program Allows Students to Customize their Degrees

Eberly will welcome its first official class of data science majors this fall. When they get to WVU, they will begin building a foundation of skills and expertise that will propel them into data-intensive careers such as those in healthcare, STEM fields, social sciences and more.

Data science as a field has really taken off over the last 10 years. Its roots are in applied mathematics, statistics and computer science, but it can be applied in countless settings to solve a wide variety of problems. According to Professor and Associate Director for Data Science, Snehalata Huzurbazar, this is precisely why the data science major appeals to incoming students.

Photo of Snehalata Huzurbazar
“Our students today think quite differently from even 5 or 10 years ago. We have a lot of students who want to solve problems, but not as narrowly as saying ‘I want to be an engineer to deal with flooding issues,’” she said. “It's much more that they want to have a toolkit they can use to tackle problems in whatever comes up. So, the data science major appeals to many different students, whether they are interested in STEM, social justice, ethics, research or something else.”

WVU’s Data Science major, housed under Eberly’s School of Mathematical and Data Sciences, is the first of its kind offered at a Research 1 institution in West Virginia.

To encourage students to apply data science to disciplines they are passionate about, the major requires them to designate a 12-hour focus area outside of their core classes. They can choose from almost any academic subject area, including astronomy, biology, criminology, geography, geology, GIS, public health and sociology. Because it is highly customizable, a focus area can prepare students for career opportunities in new areas like digital humanities and computational social sciences in addition to more traditional data science fields like business or big tech.

As they complete their focus areas, students’ core data science classes will provide foundational training in the data science pipeline, which includes learning how to access data, transform it into a usable format, formulate questions the data can answer, analyze the data and present visualizations and conclusions.

Outside the classroom, students will be able to hone their skills and interests at internships with an ever-growing co-op of local companies as well as government organizations like the FBI.

The median salary for entry level data science careers was $98,230 in 2020. In May 2021, the website Glassdoor had over 1000 entry level positions listed by companies such as Bristol Myers Squibb, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Microsoft (IT), as well as universities, consulting firms, environmental companies and more.