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New programs for the era of Big Data

The biggest challenge posed by the emerging information age is how to handle all of the data being generated. New programs in the Department of Computer & Mathematical Sciences will give students the tools to deal with the information overload in the sciences, finance, information technologies, and even the social sciences.

“The amount of information being generated in the world right now is absolutely staggering,” says David Fleet, chair of the CMS department. “The amount of data is so big that people aren’t able to digest it or analyze it. At the same time, data is fundamental to many sectors of the economy, it’s fundamental to health care, it’s fundamental to the sciences, it’s even fundamental to the humanities.”

The UTSC Academic Committee approved the new programs, which will be offered beginning next year. The first is a specialist program in statistics with streams in either quantitative finance or statistical machine learning and data mining

Quantitative finance will teach students to deal with the huge amounts of data that need to be understood and manipulated in banking, investing, economic forecasting or in trying to run a business. It will include courses in statistics, math, computer science and management, and aim to produce graduates ready to apply their skills in the workplace or continue on to graduate school

The machine learning and data mining stream will teach students to deal with the increasingly massive amounts of digital information being produced, whether it be Google search results or the pixels generated by a high-resolution digital image. Applications range from designing better search algorithms to making smarter cameras or autonomous cars.

In both streams, students will learn the specialized methods that will allow them to study and understand very large data sets.

“Central to being able to leverage these massive amounts of data is being able to learn from that data effectively,” Fleet says.

A third new program is a minor in applied statistics. The minor is intended for non-math majors who nevertheless need to understand and use statistics in their work. For instance, students in the physical or social sciences will find the course useful for the design and analysis of research experiments, Fleet says.

“With the advent of Big Data, I think statistics is playing a more important role in every corner of the university,” Fleet says.


© University of Toronto Scarborough