NKU Data Science is only undergraduate program on NerdScholar's national favorites list

For immediate release…
Monday – May 5, 2014

The Northern Kentucky University B.S. in Data Science program has been recognized by NerdScholar among a handful of what the website calls its favorite data science programs in the country. It is the only undergraduate program that made the exclusive list.

The NKU data science bachelor’s degree is a transdisciplinary program housed in the Computer Science Department within the College of Informatics. The degree uses faculty from three different academic departments – computer science, statistics, and business informatics – located within two colleges. Dr. Kevin Kirby, dean of the College of Informatics, said this multidimensional approach to data science is what separates the program from most undergraduate and graduate computer science degrees.

“This is something a bachelor’s program can do better than a narrower master’s program,” Dr. Kirby said. “It can be in transdisciplinarity in its very foundations. It can also bring in experiential learning through analytics projects for industry through the Center for Applied Informatics and elsewhere.”

The program builds on a core of computer science, information systems, statistics, and mathematics and focuses on foundations of data science, statistical modeling, data mining, business analytics, and scientific visualization. It features a capstone experience in which students obtain, condition, explore, model, and interpret a big data set.

“We feel that our unique cross-college approach to data science education that emphasizes experiential learning at the undergraduate level is a uniquely NKU way to address one of the great challenges of the 21st century,” said Dr. James McGuffee, chair of the NKU Computer Science Department. “The data science practitioner must holistically approach massive and varied data sources. This requires many activities, including finding, conditioning, exploring, warehousing, and modeling data; making sense of data using visualization, machine learning and statistics; and explaining it to others. The data science degree at NKU emphasizes the critical arc that runs from data to information, information to knowledge, and knowledge to decision making.”

While opinions vary about how complex data sets should be used, the NerdScholar report notes, one thing is certain – “…big data is here to stay.” The report cites an IBM estimate that there will be 35 Zettabytes of data generated annually by 2020. To put that into perspective, it notes, the digital universe currently holds 2.7 Zettabytes.

NerdScholar offers user-friendly and impartial data-driven tools across a wide variety of industries such as banking, credit cards, education, health care, insurance, investments, mortgages, shopping and travel, to help consumers make informed spending decisions. As the website notes, its analysis is clear, unbiased, personalized, and complete.

The data science favorites list includes: Northwestern University (master’s degree in predictive analytics with a focus on data science); Illinois Institute of Technology (master of science in marketing analytics and communication; master of data science); Syracuse University (15-credit graduate certificate of advanced study in data science); Elmhurst College (master of data science); and the NKU Bachelor of Science in Data Science. Read the NerdScholar report at

“Our expectation is that graduates of the data science program will be able to understand the mathematical and statistical foundations of data science and understand the business context in which data science functions,” Dr. McGuffee said. “We also expect students to be able to implement algorithms for data aggregation, cleaning and analysis; select and apply appropriate data analysis techniques to a variety of tasks; and communicate data analysis findings with appropriate visualizations.”

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