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The Department of Statistics and Data Science now offers a data science minor, equipping students with the computational and methodological skills to apply data science to diverse endeavors.

January 29, 2023

New Data Science Minor Encodes Key Skills in Cornell Undergraduate Students

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Students hailing from any Cornell undergraduate college can now minor in data science, a unique opportunity to learn how to examine and analyze data in an increasingly data-driven world. 

“The world is drowning in data that’s waiting to be analyzed,” Prof. Joe Guinness, statistics and data science, wrote in an email to The Sun. “The data science minor will equip you with the skills to search for interesting patterns in data and, most importantly, make sense of them.”

The minor is a new addition to the Department of Statistics and Data Science — where Guinness serves as the director of undergraduate studies — within Cornell’s Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science, which currently offers the statistical science major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the biometry and statistics major and minor offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

The data science minor allows a greater subset of students to gain important quantitative and analytical skills beyond the information science minor. Data science previously only existed as a concentration for information science and information science, systems and technology students within CAS, CALS and the College of Engineering. CAS also offers a data science in astronomy minor.

Natasha Aysseh ’23, who is pursuing the data science concentration in the information science major, said she enjoys how data science enables her to process information on her own. 

“There’s a lot of information that goes into any sort of job or project, but typically we wait for data scientists or analysts to process it so that we can look into it,” Aysseh said. “It gives someone quite a bit of autonomy to be able to understand what a series of data can do for you and what you can do to a series of data in any situation.”

According to Aysseh, her studies in data science has helped her throughout her tech internships at Rent the Runway and Rocketbook, and is a valuable asset in any field. 

“The [information science with a data science concentration] major gives you the tools to understand the information yourself and then present it to others in ways that are comprehensible and natural to someone unfamiliar with the field,” Aysseh said.

The new minor teaches key data science concepts, while also equipping students with the computational and methodological skills to apply it to their own diverse endeavors.

“The minor is designed for students who want to learn some skills in data analysis and statistical modeling to supplement their major field of study, without fully majoring in a data-intensive discipline like statistics,” Guinness told The Sun. “For example, if you want to eventually get a graduate degree in the social sciences, or if you want to be a journalist, the data science minor might be a great fit for you.”

Six courses are required in total for the minor, including one core course in statistics and one in computer programming. Students must take four courses from four categories: data analysis, domain expertise, big data ethics, policy and society and data communication. Students must take courses in at least three categories.

A data science minor may help open doors to different career possibilities. 

“It’s a bit early to say, since this is a new minor, but the [career] list will probably include ‘researcher,’ ‘data journalist’ or simply ‘the person in the office that knows what to do with this massive dataset we’ve been sitting on,’ which will make your boss happy,” Guinness said. 

Sonia Mar ’26, an Industrial Labor Relations student who is exploring Cornell’s minor options, grew interested in the new data science minor after taking Industrial Labor Relations Statistics 2100: Introductory Statistics. 

Mar said she recognizes that data analysis is increasingly valuable as information science expands to different professional sectors.

“As a current pre-law student, I think that being able to understand data and interpret conclusions from it is going to be helpful for understanding different legal cases, especially in the business or finance sector,” Mar said. 

Guinness said that students gauging their interest in the minor should consider taking a programming course, like Statistical Science 3040: R Programming for Data Science, to see if they enjoy it. According to Guinness, data-intensive courses tend to have a programming component, and programming skills may benefit students in the future. 

Aysseh said she thinks the minor is a great opportunity for students. 

“I know lots of people who say they want to have some data science-related or analytical programming experience before going into their job field, often to make themselves seem more competitive in the market, and this seems like a smart way to introduce more people to it.”