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Hamilton has added an interdisciplinary concentration in data science to its areas of study beginning this fall. Through the Data Science Program, students will engage with statistical methods, algorithms, data structures, and machine learning while gaining a critical understanding of the data life cycle and analysis. Courses in statistics, computing, and applied domains such as government, environmental science, and sociology will introduce the societal impact of data science and such ethical concerns as privacy rights and data validity.

“I think it is a huge boost to [students’] post-college plans, especially if they are planning to go work in a data-oriented field,” said Chinthaka Kuruwita, associate professor of statistics and director of the Data Science Program. “Employers do not just want workhorses; they need people who can think with data. Our data science degree develops the right amount of technical expertise as well as other skills that are essential to our modern-day world.”

The new concentration addresses the accelerating demand in academic, government, and business settings for employees with the quantitative, statistical, and technological expertise to collect and analyze large data sets. Already, several Hamilton students have worked with faculty over the past few years to craft custom-designed concentrations in data science.

“Employers do not just want workhorses; they need people who can think with data. Our data science degree develops the right amount of technical expertise as well as other skills that are essential to our modern-day world.”

“I remember when I first taught the senior seminar in statistics in 2012, we only had five students. Now, our stats seminars run with full capacity, sometimes with over-enrollments. So clearly students are drawn into the field,” Kuruwita said.

To support the growing program, the College plans to hire a faculty member specializing in machine learning in 2023.

According to Kuruwita, the new major is designed not only for students who intend to become data science specialists, but also for those who are intrigued by the power of data science as a tool that can lead to advances in their field of primary interest, whether that be physics, chemistry, public health, climate science, sociology, economics, or many others, including the humanities.

“As a data scientist, your job is to not lose focus on the main question that you are trying to answer. That’s precisely the reason we wanted to have the ‘applied domain’ element in the program so that [students] can build more intuition specific to those domains,” he said. “So when it’s showtime — when they are actually analyzing data from that domain — they are well equipped from both sides: tech skills and domain knowledge.”

In his years at Hamilton, Kuruwita said he has seen some amazing work done by his students in the area of data science and is looking forward to when the first cohort of data science majors presents their senior projects in four years. 

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Hamilton has added an interdisciplinary concentration in data science to its areas of study beginning this fall.

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