New Minor in Data Science and Engineering Offers Students Key Skills

TROY, N.Y. — How can communities better mitigate the risks of natural disasters? How can health care be delivered effectively and efficiently? How can small businesses work with other entities to save money and time, in the delivery of services? The answers to such questions, which are sure to be faced by future leaders, will be found more easily through the use of data and mathematical models.

Beginning in the fall semester, all undergraduates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will have the opportunity to pursue a multidisciplinary minor in Data Science and Engineering. The course of study will prepare students to combine techniques from systems engineering and data science to address global challenges.

“Rensselaer has a long history of pedagogical innovations that enable our students to become leaders and problem-solvers,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We recognize that intellectual agility and data dexterity are critical elements for success in the world today.”

The core of this minor will be taught by industrial and systems engineers who use mathematical, computational, and data models to support decision-making on real problems.

“Data is an important resource for engineers and scientists,” said Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering. “Collecting and analyzing data, discovering knowledge, and employing it to solve problems, improve processes, and make better decisions is fast becoming a standard part of the engineering mindset. This minor offers the opportunity to develop a data-centric systems-level perspective about the world we live in. Naturally, it will make our graduates better prepared to address future challenges.”

Beyond the minor’s core courses, students can choose from a variety of elective courses to tailor the program to their interests, discipline, and career pursuits. Foundational courses include database design, statistical analysis, and experiment design, with electives available across Rensselaer.

The minor builds on a new data dexterity requirement for all undergraduates that Rensselaer announced in 2018. Not only is the new minor aimed at giving students in-depth, hands-on experience with data in their chosen discipline, it is also intended to deepen collaboration across majors.

“The Data Science and Engineering minor drives home the vision of Rensselaer as a comprehensive polytechnic. It’s a great example of how to integrate diverse disciplines in order to solve complex and important problems,” said David Mendonca, the professor of industrial and systems engineering who developed the program. “It reinforces the notion that when you come to Rensselaer, the barriers between disciplines are really low and your imagination can fly.”