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Big Data Analysis Certificate will be available in fall

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | APRIL 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Big Data Analysis Certificate — available at other universities nationwide — is going to be available to undergraduate University of Iowa students in the fall.

Typically, such a certificate is only offered to graduate students.

“What is unique about this certificate is that it combines expertise in the three foundational areas of data analysis: computer science, mathematics, and statistics,” said Professor Suely Oliveira, the academic coordinator for the new certificate.

The was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation of more than $500,000.

The skills acquired from the certificate involve handling, processing, and extracting information from large data sets.

Though this certificate is open to everyone, the stringent math and science requirements make it more suitable for math, science, or computer-science majors rather than students involved in other majors.

“The Big Data Analysis Certificate is a new [certificate that] requires pretty high levels of math and science skills,” said Kathryn Hall, the senior director of curriculum & academic policy for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

UI mathematics Professor David Stewart said a lot of companies express interest in people having skills in dealing with large data sets.

“What we want to do is provide an undergraduate [student] with a large data-analysis certificate so they can get some extra qualifications along with a bachelor’s degree to show they’ve had some instruction from a number of different courses and departments in the university that are related to this,” Stewart said.

So far, around 20 students have expressed interest in the program, which was approved in September.

The NSF grant was awarded this past August, and it also supports other activities such as undergraduate research and a summer school program specifically for those interested in big data analysis.

The summer school course is for incoming first year and current students, and will also be cost-free to anyone who chooses to enroll. No more than 30 students will be accepted into the summer-school course, which will be held for four days in June.

Stewart said he believes the certificate will boost career prospects.

“Having the certificate definitely shows you have some extra skills, which will be valuable,” Stewart said. “It will be seen positively by many employers.”

UI student Adam Jaschen agrees with Stewart.

“Certificates, at least the few I’m familiar with, seem to be tethered a little closer to the job market than regular majors,” he said. “Each one aims to equip students with specific, marketable skills, such as a proficiency with writing, that appeal to more than one major, and in turn, more than one employer.”

Skylar Moore, a fifth-year student at the UI and an English major who will graduate with two certificates, said certificates allow students to expand their education.

“Certificates allow students to explore a discipline that is perhaps outside the realm of their major, without the financial or time commitments of a full-on degree,” Moore said. “In my experience, certificates have less mandatory courses at the beginning and allow you to tailor your classes to your interests and needs, upping both engagement with classwork and the benefits reaped from the classroom.“


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