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Mount to Launch Data Science Major in Fall 2020

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Mount St. Mary’s University will introduce a data science major in the Fall 2020 semester through expansion of a minor degree program. The new Bachelor of Science degree will 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 in a variety of fields from economics to science to mathematics.

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.

Data science and neuroscience majors were approved by the Mount St. Mary’s Board of Trustees in January, and then the proposals were sent to the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) for approval. MHEC approved both programs last week.

Demand is 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, features a curriculum with 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.

The strength of the Mount’s data science major is the combination of the technical skill elements with the university core curriculum’s focus on habits of the mind, allowing students to solve the complex problems society will face in the coming decades, said Kraig Sheetz, Ph.D., dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics.

“The lines between academic majors are becoming more and more blurred,” Sheetz said. “The demand that we see globally, which manifests through the needs of our potential employers, is the ability to think critically and creatively in order to solve very challenging problems, and that often requires a very interdisciplinary mindset.”

The Mathematics and Computer Science department and the School of Natural Science and Mathematics have a longstanding history of placing graduates with top STEM employers in the region. Recent Mathematics and Computer Science graduates have been employed by Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Johns Hopkins Advanced Physics Laboratory, Patuxent River Naval Air Station, NSA, SAIC, and Booz Allen Hamilton, among many others.

The Mount’s coursework on ethics is of particular value to employers as well. "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," said Assistant Professor Rebecca Portier.

Several of the courses in the data science major will be taught by current faculty, including Portier. 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, will teach courses within this major. Through a partnership with the Leidos Advanced Biomedical Computing Center at Frederick National Laboratory, the endowed professor will also hold a visiting scientist appointment at Leidos.