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Trustees Approve Plans for Majors in Data Science and Neuroscience

science feature

The Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees has approved new Bachelor of Science degree programs in data science and neuroscience that are expected to launch in Fall 2020. The proposals have been sent to the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) for approval.

“These majors not only help students develop highly sought after technical skill sets that are in high demand in the workplace but also the leadership skills such as critical thinking, communication and ethics that are needed in these fields,” said President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D.

Both majors would be added to the School of Natural Science and Mathematics and would be interdisciplinary, weaving traditional curriculum with newer curriculum in related fields.

Focusing on the study of the nervous system, the neuroscience major would be housed in the Department of Psychology. Foundational courses in biology, chemistry, psychology and computer science would be applied in neuroscience-specific courses and research on topics from cell biology to human behavior and cognition. The program is primarily composed of existing coursework that leverages the expertise of current faculty.

The neuroscience program seeks to train scientists who can apply a broad-ranging skill set to address problems whose resolution would enhance the human condition, the proposal stated. These problems include substance abuse, mood disorders and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. In just two years, between September 2016 and October 2018, the demand for bachelor’s-level neuroscience professionals rose by 42 percent, according to market research conducted by EAB Global, Inc. Professionals in managerial and research roles are in the highest demand regionally.

Demand is also growing rapidly for professionals with the aptitude to transform complex data into useful data products. The data science major, to be housed in the Mathematics and Computer Sciences Department, would combine traditional curriculum in mathematics and computer science with newer curriculum related to current data science techniques to prepare graduates for success as data scientists, analysts and managers. The curriculum would include five critical elements: computational science and data science foundations, data skill development, application area exploration and a demonstration of skills learned within a problem domain through a capstone course.

Since first being offered in 2016-17, the Mount's data science minor has tripled the number of students enrolled in the required sequence of courses and has resulted in graduates who have been highly successful in gaining employment within data-related careers or pursuing graduate studies in data-science-related disciplines.

"A data science program within a university dedicated to the development of ethical leaders enables Mount St. Mary's University to graduate data science practitioners who will evaluate all potential data science applications not only in light of what can be done but also in light of what should be done," stated the proposal submitted to MHEC for approval.

An endowed professor in computational sciences and mathematics, funded through a $1 million grant from the Maryland E-Novation Initiative Fund with matching funds from the university, would teach courses within this major. Through a partnership with the Leidos Advanced Biomedical Computing Center at Frederick National Laboratory, the endowed professor will hold a visiting scientist appointment at Leidos in academic year 2020-21.