Courtesy of Dae Won Kim '17

January 24, 2017

Cornell Data Science Launches Student-Led Training Course in Statistical Methods, Programming Languages

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The Cornell Data Science project team will launch an unofficial student-led training course this semester — taught and developed entirely by Cornell students — to help students gain hands-on experience in the increasingly valuable skills of statistical methods and programming languages.

“We saw an opportunity to promote data science in the undergraduate community, and we saw it as our responsibility as the data science project team to help make it happen,” said Chase Thomas ’19, CDS’s operations lead.

The course will be open to students of all majors who are interested in data science, according to Thomas. With no prerequisites and only one recommended course — Computer Science 1110: Introduction to Computing Using Python — the course is designed to be accessible to students with no prior programming experience.

Modeled on a similar training program offered by CUAppDev — another project team at Cornell — the course will be taught solely by undergraduate student lecturers. Daewon Kim ’17, president and education lead of CDS, said that he believes data science is a unique field where flexible, student-to-student instruction may be more effective than a regular course.

“The courses at school need to be fairly consistent and thus can’t closely follow the trends of the industry,” Kim said. “[CDS is] more sensitive to the industry standards because we’re not bound by the same constraints, and is in the right position to provide a more industry-sensitive introduction to data science.”

Developing the course posed a unique set of challenges for those working on the course material. Amit Mizrahi ’19, an education associate at CDS, said that one of these challenges was defining the students’ end goals.

“When we first started out, we asked ourselves: ‘What do we want this to be? How do we want the course to look?’ It’s a new approach and you have to have a well-defined vision to even start,” Mizrahi said.

Currently, the overarching goal of their course is to teach students data science from a practical standpoint as opposed to a mathematical, theoretical one.

“We want students to be coding from day one in the class, and we really want them to be engaging in a hands-on manner with what they’re learning,” Mizrahi said.

To achieve that goal, projects and assignments in this course will be modeled after industry cases and sample cases from competitions. Thomas said that by the end of the course, students will have a good feel for the real-world application of data science.

The eleven-week class will be offered as a one-credit course and meet every Wednesday in Gates Hall. Instruction will begin mid-February and end in April.