Data Analytics Education and Data Science: The University of Maryland’s Ten-Year Plan

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On May 1, 2015, the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science presented a 10-year plan, placing a focus on expanding two areas of computer science: a comprehensive Data Analytics education and Data Science program, that also included a focus on Augmented/Virtual Reality. They recognized the need for Big Data expertise and the use of Virtual Reality as a training tool are rapidly becoming integral parts of our business community and culture.

In response, the department developed a comprehensive research agenda, addressing all aspects of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, distributed systems, Big Data Management, visualization, and security. The University of Maryland also promotes a philosophy of training their students to be well-rounded human beings, rather than only tightly focused technicians. Ben Shneiderman, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, said:

“Students can be trained to be more innovative, creative and active initiators of novel ideas. Skills of writing, speaking and making videos are important, but fundamental skills of critical thinking, community building, teamwork, deliberation/dialogue and conflict resolution will be powerful. A mindset of persistence and the necessary passion to succeed are also critical.”

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, the University of Maryland’s President stated:

“I will tell you that I have more humanities graduates who are now chief information officers than computer science graduates. Why? Because they took some of the computer science courses and they can talk to people.”

Baxter Robots

An example of projects the University of Maryland is currently working on includes Baxters. Baxters are low cost robots with long arms and nimble fingers. The robots are meant to be used in manufacturing scenarios and come with a variety of tactile and visual sensors meant for manufacturing purposes. Researchers on this project are exploring Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision, and Machine Learning to train the robots to pour liquid into a moving jar, to cook from watching videos, and to coordinate with other robots.

The Augmentarium

The Augmentarium provides cutting-edge augmented and virtual realities. The facility combines a unique mixture of augmented reality visors, projection displays, GPU clusters, and human-to-computer interaction technologies. Students study and promote the visual augmentation of human intelligence. Human augmentation research is used to promote applications in engineering, science, education, medicine, and commerce.

Visors allow students to “see through” a potential patient before making an incision. This environment succeeds in condensing training for rare medical situations into a few weeks using “virtual experiences.” In the manufacturing and service industries, virtual reality training translates well to a physical environment. Industries can train their people to safely install, calibrate, and maintain complex systems. Artistic performances can also make use of the Augmentarium, using state-of-the-art camera arrays to create real-time virtual worlds. Occupational athlete training and sports medicine can use the technology to integrate physical and cognitive training for athletes. The facility is currently being used to research:

  • Atmospheric and Oceanic Instabilities
  • Characterizing Stem Cell Colonies
  • Big Data in Astronomy
  • Surgical Interventions and Training
  • Simulations in Fluid Dynamics
  • Visualizing Big Data
  • Visualization Techniques for Cybersecurity

A Master of Science in Data Analytics

The classes and curriculum for this program are constantly reviewed and updated by advisors and industry experts. This ensures the classes keep pace with current trends and technologies. The Master of Science in Data Analytics education program merges the studies of both business and Data Science, to produce Data Analysts who can think in terms of business. Students are taught to manage and interpret data, create presentations, and provide strategic, data-driven recommendations for accomplishing business goals. The Data Analytics education program includes training in data mining, visual analytics, predictive modeling, etc.

Students are trained to:

  • Evaluate and translate business problems into Data Analytics projects
  • Manage a Data Analytics project to completion
  • Develop data mining applications for specific projects
  • Apply statistical and machine learning techniques
  • Transform Big Data sets into useful, easy-to-understand information
  • Apply Big Data Analytics to specific areas, such as business, security, or scientific applications

Information Technology Master’s Degree with Database Systems Technology Specialization

This program provides an understanding of distributed and relational databases. It uses the latest in cutting-edge technology while training students in data mining, Data Modeling, and other database administration skills. The program prepares students for a variety of certifications, and for real-world projects by providing a thorough understanding of the design, development, and administration of data technology.

Students are trained to:

  • Work with NoSQL, SQL, Oracle 11g, and UNIX
  • Mine, model, manage, and warehouse data
  • Use Microsoft Project and Microsoft Vision in completing projects
  • Use database administration and security techniques

Training Program in Applied Data Analytics

The University of Maryland fills a need by offering this novel program to working professionals (and PhD students) seeking a stronger understanding of software and Data Analytics. The program is a joint effort presented by New York University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Maryland, with support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Many organizations are struggling to keep up with constantly evolving technologies. The Training Program in Applied Analytics is designed to educate professionals and streamline human/database interactions. The knowledge gained is applicable to a spectrum of fields, including sociology, computer science, survey statistics, public health, and federal departments. The program offers participants the tools needed to manage technology and analytics projects effectively, and may open the doors to career advancement.

The program is designed to provide hands-on training. This is accomplished by offering direct communications and collaboration with government agencies and other students within the program. Project collaborations typically result in a broader, more open analytics platform, in turn producing a sustainable culture of information sharing.

Students are trained to:

  • Use data analysis to solve social problems using Big Data
  • Evaluate data for its usefulness regarding research questions and statistical needs
  • Develop and identify new approaches to creating effective presentations
  • Identify the various data quality frameworks and select the best choice for Big Data problems
  • Develop skills for Big Data Analytics not normally taught in the social science, statistics, economics, or survey courses

A Wealth of Programs and Research Projects

University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science has a wealth of programs and research projects. Their education programs are thorough, and range from mining to modeling to Data Management and Predictive Analytics. By partnering with principal employers, the school has developed an innovative curriculum for preparing students to succeed and thrive in the fields of Data Science and Data Analytics.

The Computer Science Department’s partnership with principal employers supports a comprehensive research agenda. The department provides an education on all aspects of Predictive Analytics and Big Data Management, covering such topics as high performance computing, Cloud Computing, visualization, distributed systems, databases, and security and privacy.

Photo Credit: University of Maryland

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