Big Data, Big Time

The Harvard Business Review has referred to data science and analytics as the “sexiest job in the twenty-first century.”

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Sexy or not, the need is obvious. Companies are seeking employees with the skills to build and query large data sets and understand how to ask the right questions to extract critical knowledge.

Ohio State listened. Our new interdisciplinary undergraduate major in data analytics—the first of its kind in the country offered by a major research institution—begins autumn semester. It is specifically designed to address the need for data analytics professionals and it will open doors to nearly limitless career opportunities for its graduates.

“That the colleges and university came together so quickly to put together this major is a testament to the commitment of Ohio State to bring its comprehensive strength to bear on issues of importance to Ohio, our nation and the world,” said David C. Manderscheid, Executive Dean and Vice-Provost, College of Arts and Sciences.

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“Indeed, this has been a whole-institutional response to a strongly articulated need,” said Peter March, mathematics professor and divisional dean of the natural and mathematical sciences in Arts and Sciences.

“Expertise in data analytics will be in demand in virtually all areas of human endeavor and will engender partnerships with diverse business enterprises. Name any major industry—banking, insurance, health care, retail, oil and gas, logistics—and there are analytics issues,” March said.

The colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering are partnering to deliver the core courses in computer sciences, mathematics and statistics. Majors will receive a BS from Arts and Sciences.

The core curriculum will provide solid foundational footing. Students will learn principles of data representation and big data management, software design and programming, and statistical modeling and analysis.

Then, students choose courses in an area of specialization to learn how data analytics is applied in a particular field. This will prepare them for a capstone experiential learning opportunity through partnerships with businesses.

“The important thing is that we wanted to build in a structure to develop both highly technical skill sets and the ability to function in solutions-oriented teams. Core courses coupled with a specialization in business, medicine, social and behavioral sciences, or any unit on campus that can identify a workforce need that meshes with the major, will strengthen the students’ ability to function in the marketplace,” March said. 

Right now, the specializations available in the major are:

  • Biomedical Informatics—introduces students to the core sub-disciplines of biomedical informatics that play a role in data analysis and discovery in biological and medical information systems
  • Business Analytics—familiarizes students with how to practice data analytics in business—focusing on applications in finance, accounting, customer insights, and operations and logistics
  • Computational Analytics—allows students to explore and specialize in in the areas of large-scale data analytics and architectures from theory to practice with a computational focus.

Christopher Hans, associate professor of statistics; and Srinivasan Parthasarathy, professor, computer and engineering science, are program co-directors.

Discovery Themes

The data analytics major is aligned with Ohio State’s Discovery Themes Initiative, a 10-year, multi-million dollar investment designed to make Ohio State a leader in critical  research on massive global problems that pose enormous challenges—Energy and Environment; Food Production and Security; and Health and Wellness.

The Discovery Themes Faculty Advisory Boards unanimously agreed that data analytics was the foundational tool for tackling these challenges. Therefore, they’ve determined that the first of the Discovery Themes investments will be in data analytics.