What is data science and what does a data scientist do?
Data science is an interdisciplinary field that draws from and builds on traditional STEM disciplines to extract knowledge and insights from structured and unstructured data. A data science degree program provides students with some of the same technical training they would obtain through a traditional STEM degree program, such as computer science, but rather than going in-depth into the discipline, data science uses computer science and math and statistics tools to build models from data that can be used to understand phenomena, answer a question, etc.
Data scientists must not only have experience with programming, algorithmics and math, they must also have the patience to work on long projects and overcome roadblocks, the ability to communicate effectively, act as team players, and embody a strong commitment to ethical and privacy considerations inherent to working with data.
Data science is prevalent in many industries and you will likely see a variety of different job titles, such as “AI developer,” “Machine Learning Engineer,” or “Information Security Analyst.”
What is the BS in Data Science degree program in CDS?
The Bachelor of Science in Data Science Degree program is a rigorous program that covers the foundational as well as the applied dimensions of Data Science by focusing on aspects of mathematics, statistics, algorithmics, informatics, and software engineering that are relevant for analyzing and manipulating voluminous and/or complex data.
To gain a deep appreciation of the human and social contexts, the regulatory and institutional structures, and the ethical and professional practices that shape technical work around computing and data science, the program equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to carry out the full cycle of data-driven investigative inquiry in real-world settings.
The program is designed to provide students with ample opportunities to pursue a minor in a discipline, for which data-driven inquiry is prevalent – from natural, biomedical, social, and management sciences to arts and humanities.
What are the major requirements?
The major in Data Science requires a total of 64 credits, including:
- 14 four-credit courses covering:
Mathematical and Computational Foundations: 4 courses
Data Science Core: 6 courses
Data Science Electives, satisfied through the Methodology OR In-The-Field Track: 4 courses
- A capstone experience* that students can complete in a number of ways, including:
A supervised project pursued as part of a practicum course;
A supervised project pursued as part of an internship or co-op;
A directed study course
- Final 4.00 credits can be fulfilled with any course that meets CDS requirements
- 14 four-credit courses covering:
*In preparation for the capstone experience, some students will take 0, 1 or 2-credit semester-long workshops, each of which is focused on a subset of skills and competencies. While not required, some capstone experiences will require students to complete these workshops.
Workshop topics will include inclusive design, user interface design, project/product proposal development, and software engineering practice.
What is the difference between the Methodology and In-The-Field tracks?
Students who pursue the “Methodology” track will complete courses that focus heavily on the foundational competencies of computing & data sciences. Students who pursue this track can combine their undergraduate major with a minor in one of the methodological or STEM fields, including Computer Science, Statistics, Information Systems, Physics, Economics, etc.
Students who pursue the “In the Field” track will focus on the synthesis of foundational competencies within particular domains, including the natural sciences, biomedical, management, arts, and humanities. The “In the Field” option allows students to pursue a discipline in which to develop expertise through taking electives.
Students who opt for the “In the Field” option should consider minoring in a discipline of interest.
Do Data Science courses fulfill Hub units?
Pending approval by the General Education Committee, courses and workshops in the major are expected to satisfy one or more of the following Hub units:
- Scientific/Social Inquiry I & II
- Quantitative Reasoning I & II
- The Individual in Community, Ethical Reasoning
- Writing Intensive Course, Writing, Research & Inquiry, Oral and/or Signed Communication, Digital/Multimedia Expression
- Critical Thinking, Research & Information Literacy, Teamwork/Collaboration, Creativity/Innovation
Can I take courses in other departments and still fulfill the major requirements?
Yes. While CDS will develop the capacity to support enrollment in DS courses covering the foundational and core requirements of the major, students will be encouraged to venture out of CDS to satisfy some of these requirements from cognate units, particularly in the first few years of the BS in Data Science program.
What courses are eligible to be used as substitutes for CDS courses?
The following table illustrates acceptable course/course sequence substitutions that students may use when IUTing into CDS. You must have earned a grade of B- or better in each course you’d like to count toward the DS major.
What if I want to minor in another subject area?
We encourage it! The program is designed to provide students with ample opportunities to pursue a minor in a discipline for which data-driven inquiry is prevalent – from natural, biomedical, social, and management sciences to arts and humanities.
I am curious about Data Science but not sure if it’s right for me - can CDS help me decide?
Of course! CDS has developed several options that act as “gateways” for students to try out its Data Science major. Our on ramps, ranging from a single Hub course to a short sequence of courses, allow students to explore curricular and cocurricular experiential opportunities within CDS before they commit to the major.
Our bridges are more structured pathways that allow students to transition seamlessly across programs, whether these programs are offered by CDS or by other cognate academic units. Bridges make it possible for students to view these programs holistically as interconnected pathways leading to various computing and data science careers, and empower them to make informed decisions about their choice of degree programs.
Who can apply to CDS?
Starting in the fall of 2021, students currently enrolled in an undergraduate program at BU will be able to declare Data Science as a major by transferring to the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences using the Intra-University Transfer (IUT) process.
Starting in the fall of 2022, we will accept direct application and admission of first year students to CDS, as well as students who transfer to BU from another institution in their sophomore or junior years.
Applications for IUT are accepted beginning after the first semester of enrollment at BU and no later than the end of the first semester of junior year.
If I IUT into CDS, will I still get my degree from my first school/college?
No. Your degree will be granted to you by CDS.
What are the criteria for IUTs?
Students who are considering Intra-University Transfer (IUT) to CDS must discuss their IUT application with the Manager of the Academic Programs in CDS by July 15th for a Fall IUT and by November 15th for a Spring IUT.
- A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or greater on at least 12 credits per semester for at least one semester at BU
- A grade of at least a B- or better for any non-CDS courses to be counted towards the foundational, core and/or elective requirements for the major
Can I intern while in the program?
Yes. Experiential learning is a core element of the CDS degree program, and students will be highly encouraged to complete internships or externships. Students will also have the opportunity to earn credits towards fulfillment of the capstone requirement through external internships, e.g., in industry. These for-credit internships will have to be pre-approved as directed studies pursued under the supervision of CDS faculty, requiring the definition of a well- scoped project, interim and final reporting, as well as participation in regular meetings with peers pursuing similar experiences.
How do I start the IUT application process?
Students will be required to attend a mandatory information session and complete an IUT application form, in which they will need to list the courses that they would like to potentially count toward the DS major and the grades received in those courses. IUT applications will be reviewed and individual advising sessions will be scheduled as needed.
Reach out to Melissa Nesbitt, Academic Programs Manager at CDS, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
What is the deadline to apply?
Students who are considering Intra-University Transfer (IUT) to CDS must apply by July 15 for a Fall IUT and by November 15th for a Spring IUT.
Are dual degrees or double majors an option?
Starting Fall 2022, pursuing a dual degree will be an option, provided students complete the requirements for both degrees.
Currently, students are unable to double major across degree granting units.
What does the advising experience look like for undergraduates?
Initially, the CDS Academic Programs Manager and the CDS Academic Advisor will take on the role of advising students in the BS program. Further dedicated professional advising staff will be recruited over time as necessitated by enrollment numbers in the major, with the goal of maintaining a student-to-advisor FTE ratio of 100-1.*
The intentionally flexible design of the DS major will require active engagement by students’ advisors, especially in the early years of the program. Due to opportunities for curricular and co-curricular experiential learning, additional student advising may be provided by external partners from industry and foundations.
First year students will have four advising conversations during the academic year.
Every sophomore, junior, and senior will have, at minimum, one 20-to-30 minute substantive advising conversation per semester.
Upon achieving junior standing, students will be assigned a faculty advisor to engage in discussion and mentorship on a post-BS plan. This will entail meeting students individually or in small groups at least once per semester in their junior and senior years, with the last of these meetings serving as an exit interview.
Where on campus will courses be offered?
Our current home base for CDS is a newly-renovate suite of offices and collaboration spaces on the first floor of the MCS Building at 111 Cummington Mall (https://maps.bu.edu/?id=647#!m/558432). While we expect that some of our classes will be taught there, others will be taught in classrooms assigned by the registrar’s office around campus. Once the CDS Building is completed, students can expect to take most if not all CDS courses in that building!
I'd like to IUT but I received a C+ in one of the course substitutions. Can I still potentially use this course for major credit?
We encourage students to petition to include substitute courses in which they received a C/C+ in their DS major pathways.
I've taken a course that is similar to one of the DS required courses. However, it does not fully meet the requirement. What should I do?
To avoid repetitive coursework, we encourage students to take more advanced courses in the same subject area to count toward the DS major.
Do I need to complete the full course substitution sequence, or can I take 1-2 courses within a sequence and then begin taking courses in the CDS sequences instead?
If you have already begun a course substitution sequence, we encourage you to continue coursework in that same sequence.