Students interested in data science find community on campus with new major, club

Junior Barry Eom, founder of the data science program in the Tufts chapter of TAMID Group, poses for a portrait in the Science and Engineering Center on Nov. 15. Julia McDowell / The Tufts Daily

This fall, 250 first-years began the next step in their educational careers here at the Tufts School of Engineering, according to the Office of Institutional Research. The Class of 2022 is unique as it is the first cohort of Tufts engineers who have the new major in data science available to them from their first year at Tufts. According to an April 3 Daily article, this new program was approved by the Board of Trustees last February and first became available to students this fall.

Ryan Weinstein declared a major in data science this August. Weinstein, a sophomore, described data science as the collection and analysis of large data sets in order to make decisions and solve problems. He mentioned machine learning as a part of data science, which he said involves gathering data and using an algorithm to make a decision with that data.

Weinstein initially declared a major in human factors engineering last year, but he decided to switch to data science this year after getting advice from his peers.

“When I talked to upperclassmen in the [human factors engineering] major, they said that they felt unprepared to get jobs from it and that it was better suited as a minor to supplement something. I figured data science is also something I’m interested in so it would be a good major,” he said. “I’m still considering a minor in human factors to supplement it.” 

Weinstein said that since the major is new this year and many first-year engineers have yet to declare a major, he thinks that the program is currently small but sees a lot of opportunities and areas for growth in this new major.

 “I only know four or five people in the major right now. But there’s a lot of [first-years] who will be declaring it, I think … it will be a popular major because it’s a growing field,” Weinstein said. 

Weinstein also participates in the TAMID Group at Tufts’ newly-established TAMID-Keyrus Data Science Program, founded by junior Barry Eom. Weinstein said that this new group within TAMID at Tufts, a club for business-minded students interested in the Israeli economy, brings together students interested in data science — regardless of their majors.

Eom, who is majoring in computer science, founded the new data science group when he realized there was not a huge concentration on data science here or at other college campuses.

“A lot of college campuses around the U.S. right now don’t have the opportunities for students to explore data science, and that’s because the relative newness of this field. I saw this at Tufts. I saw this at a lot of other college campuses,” Eom said. “So I was essentially met with 3 options: first one being taking online courses on my own and waiting to take those classes at Tufts; second … being creating a small book club here … and third one — which was quite ambitious — was to create a national data science organization that could be spread to other college campuses as well, and that’s where TAMID comes in.” 

Eom, who had been involved with the Tufts chapter of TAMID since its inception, realized that he could use TAMID’s resources and network to provide data science opportunities at Tufts and nationally. For a while, this was just an idea. But when Eom met representatives from Keyrus, an international data services firm, at a Tufts career fair, he began to form a partnership that would help launch the new data science program within TAMID at Tufts.

“I personally wanted some mentorship, some resources and help creating this group because … I had no experience in data science. Keyrus, on the other hand, was trying to increase their [brand name] on college campuses, so I realized this was a perfect combination,” he said.

After pitching the idea to Keyrus a few times, the company decided they wanted to go ahead with the program. Over the summer, Eom and employees at Keyrus developed the education curriculum, in addition to deciding on the structure of the group, before officially starting on campus this fall. The TAMID-Keyrus Data Science Program has had a rather successful start, according to Eom.

“The part that surprised me the most was the number of applications we got and the number of strong applicants who were interested in joining the program. I think it really speaks volumes when a new organization that no one’s ever heard of gets an insane amount of applications [in] its first semester,” Eom said.

Eom said that so far, the group has had weekly peer-led workshops, each covering a different data science topic, including decision trees, random forests and support vector machines. While many members of the group do not have extensive experience with data science, Eom said they all share a passion for learning, taking the initiative to read up on the topics ahead of leading the workshops.

Abigail Miller, a first-year who participates in the TAMID-Keyrus Data Science Program, said she has enjoyed the program and was initially drawn to it due to her interest in computer science and data analysis.

“It’s a lot of new material for me. As a [first-year], it’s kind of a stretch, especially because there are people who have a lot more coding skills than I have. But it’s definitely a great way to learn, and next semester we’re going to be working with companies to work on projects so that’s something you can’t get inside the classroom — that’s incredible,” she said.

For next semester, Eom said that members will work on data science projects in partnership with Vistaprint, a company that offers customized physical and digital marketing products. Eom hopes to partner with more local and Israeli startups in the future, even as peer-led workshops remain a consistent presence within the club.

“I think education is going to be a perpetual thing. The field of data science is very new but very big and very much growing. So I think realistically even spending a full year on education won’t suffice. I’d love people to just keep on learning, so next semester I think it’ll look like a continuation of education with the data science projects,” Eom said.

According to Eom, TAMID at Tufts is currently the only TAMID chapter to have a data science program.

“TAMID has [46] chapters across the U.S., so there’s a pretty big opportunity to scale up. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there, so I’m really excited about that,” he said.

Miller said TAMID has provided a good data science community on campus. She thought it was a good way to meet students of other class years as well as to get involved in data science outside of the new major. She plans on majoring in either applied mathematics or computer science, but she would consider majoring in data science if it was offered in the School of Arts and Sciences.

“I wish the data science major was in [the School of Arts and Sciences] because I don’t want to transfer to the School of Engineering, but otherwise I would consider it,” she said.

However, Miller still hopes to take data science-related courses during her time at Tufts.

“I would love to take those classes, but with all the requirements, I’m going to have to see. If it can fulfill some of my major requirements, that would be great. And then if I have extra time, those would be the classes that I would definitely take with my extra time,” Miller said. 

Weinstein also said he is excited about this growing community on campus for those interested in data science. He said he has met many students who are not data science majors but who joined TAMID because they think data science is a beneficial skill to have. He personally thinks it’s valuable for people in every field. As for being one of the first students at Tufts to major in data science, he said that makes him feel pretty special.


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