Features, Science

Students reflect on new Data Science Major a year after its creation

Data science building
Boston University’s Center for Computing & Data Sciences. BU launched Data Science as an undergraduate major in 2021. SAM BETSKO/DFP STAFF

Riya Parikh, freshman in the Computing and Data Science Program, waited until the last minute to make her college decision.

It was April 30, 2022 — one day before she had to submit her official commitment — and she was between Boston University and Northeastern University.

She compared the two programs and found that course-wise they were rather similar, she said. While she noted part of her decision came down to family legacy and financial aid offers, there was another key deciding factor that made her choose BU.

“I also was kind of adamant on graduating in four years instead of five and with the pathway I would have planned at Northeastern, I don’t think it would have been possible,” Parikh said.

So BU it was — and Parikh became part of the first freshman class to apply to and enter the new undergraduate major, launched a year ago at BU.

BU announced the undergraduate data science program in June 2021, with students able to transfer to the major last Fall. Some students who switched to the data science major then, however, have doubts about meeting degree qualifications to be able to graduate on time.

Parikh said she feels like she’s in a “good place” and will stay on track to complete her degree within four years.

Amelia Sturbois, junior in CDS, initially came to BU as a statistics major, then later switched to computer science. She officially transferred into the data science major after meeting with her advisor recently, but now said she’s not as certain about completing her degree on time.

“I told (a CDS advisor) I will not be transferring unless I am certain I can graduate in four years just because I’m not willing to pay to stay longer than I have to,” Sturbois said. “It’s definitely a point of anxiety.”

Colleen Kenney, the senior undergraduate academic advisor of the faculty of CDS, said in an email to The Daily Free Press that CDS will support students’ efforts to graduate on time.

“As we work with this upcoming graduating class, if a student is unable to graduate, we will work with that student to assess what resources they may need to ensure they do graduate,” Kenney wrote.

The Data Science program is in its infancy, which makes registering for courses challenging, Tessa Wu, a junior in CDS, said. When she was beginning to consider transferring into CDS, she spoke with an academic advisor, who made her feel a “little disappointed” about the organization of the program, she said.

Wu was told that the advisor didn’t have clear answers to her questions regarding the program at large.

While Sturbois was able to use some Computer Science courses to bypass intro courses in the DS major, she said she and many of her classmates didn’t feel prepared in the upper-level material when she entered her first DS class this semester.

“It’s a 300-level course, and it’s my first DS course I’ve ever taken because I’m trying to stay on track,” Sturbois said. “I think a lot of people were really insecure or worried (about) taking an upper level class where they didn’t know anything about the topic, but yet that’s the position that graduating in time has pushed a lot of students in I think.”

In an email to The Daily Free Press, Micah Sieber, the Director of Academic Programs at CDS, said all intra-university transfers are unique.

“No two intra-university transfers to date have been exactly the same, so we look at multiple aspects of a student’s record in evaluating their IUT request. Current academic standing is taken into account, as well as performance in coursework taken in their prior program,” Sieber wrote.

Arin Wang, senior in CDS, was planning on transferring to New York University for their data science program, but stayed at BU and transferred to CDS.

“I saw this program. I thought, that’s what I want,” Wang said.

Wang said she feels confident in the usefulness and applicability of the program. She said if anything, the program could have opened up sooner.

“I think (BU) should have opened (CDS) earlier because there’s a lot of things we need to try and test to see whether they work or not,” Wang said. “I think people need some time to be prepared for that.”

Wang anticipates that — after changing her major from math to computer science to data science — she will be able to graduate on time in Spring 2023. She said she is excited about the diverse job prospects that a degree in data science affords her.

To Wu, there are pros and cons of the major still being developed.

“Sometimes it’s not great to step into something so new when it’s not structured yet, just because you don’t know what’s gonna happen and a lot of classes aren’t provided,” Wu said. “Right now, I’m taking two Questrom courses that count towards my major requirements. I mean, that gives flexibility to … go around and take different classes from different colleges that I probably would never take.”

While Sturbois said she initially felt the program would be a good fit, she is now uneasy.

“At first, I thought (the DS major) was a really cool opportunity,” Sturbois said. “And I still think that it has a ton of potential, but my perspective has shifted that maybe the University shouldn’t have offered the opportunity for juniors to make the switch just because there is still a lot of uncertainty within the program.”

Comments are closed.