Recap: Panel Discussion on Data Science, Innovation, and IIT

A discussion on data science and innovation took place on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 in the McCormick Tribune Campus Center on IIT’s Main Campus during the 40th anniversary celebration of the founding of IIT’s computer science department. Vice Provost Dennis Roberson moderated the panel, which included Department of Computer Science Chair Xian-He Sun; Professor of Computer Science Shlomo Argamon; Chris Gladwin, president and CEO of Cleversafe; Wesley Leggette (CS ’12), software architect at Cleversafe; and Sherrie Littlejohn (M.S. CS ’82),  executive vice president of Wells Fargo.

The panel of experts from academia and industry discussed the definition of the field and probed the raison d’être for launching a master’s degree in data science. There was general agreement among the panelists that the field has not yet clearly defined itself and is just beginning to evolve, analogous to the way the field of computer science established itself just a few decades ago. Whereas computer science moved forward in the direction of computation, there is a growing need now for an emphasis on data. The panel strongly concurred that in addition to high-level statistics and computer science, data scientists need to learn data analysis, interpretation, visualization and communication. These skills are being put to use to help businesses, both large and small, find solutions to better serve their customer base. A well-trained data scientist will be an expert in his/her own domain but will able to work closely with all members of business and IT teams.

One key issue raised by an audience member was the need for data scientists to have experience working outside academia on teams addressing real-world problems. The panel discussed how co-op programs and practicum projects, such as those available at IIT, can help students gain such valuable experience before they graduate. To learn more about the master of data science program, visit IIT’s data science program.