A woman wearing headphones smiles as she looks at a laptop at a deskTraining the next generation of in-demand data scientists for numerous fields is the goal of a new course-based master’s degree to be launched at the University of Guelph this fall pending formal program approval.

The new data science program will focus on spatial-temporal data – data collected over time and space — used in agriculture, supply chain and transportation technologies and in industries such as environment, meteorology, biology and health, among other fields.

“We wanted to make sure that our curriculum and learning opportunities would give students a competitive edge in industry and an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else,” said Dr. Ayesha Ali, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and director of the new program.

“We realized that there was a growing industry demand for professionals who can collect, analyze, interpret and visualize spatial-temporal data, which aligned with the expertise that we have in our department and across U of G. So we got to work developing a robust degree that will train the next generation of data scientists who can meet this demand.”

Data science a growing industry

Demand for data science experts is growing in Canada, she said. The Information and Communications Technology Council identifies data scientists among the top 15 digital-related jobs that will be most needed in Canada through 2023, with an anticipated 305,000 job openings for digitally skilled talent.

The master of data science program will teach students advanced data mining; data warehousing and database management; extraction, transformation and loading; machine learning; statistical modelling; scripting; and data visualization.

The topics will prepare students for direct entry to careers in industry, and provide professional advancement for those already working in fields with reliance on big data.

In addition to technical training, students will learn about ethics of data science and how to identify potential biases, an approach supported by the program’s affiliation with U of G’s Centre for Advancing Responsible and Ethical Artificial Intelligence.

Dr. Ben Bradshaw, assistant vice-president (graduate studies), said the data science program with its hands-on learning and evident industry demand is a welcome addition to U of G’s course-based graduate degrees.

“Students will have the opportunity to learn from our renowned faculty working and conducting research in data science, artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. They will learn an ethics-focused approach to data science, how to apply learning material, and the communication skills needed to succeed in industry,” he said.

Flexibility for students to learn at different paces

image of Dr. Ayesha Ali, head and shoulder shot of her smiling with blurred trees in the background
Dr. Ayesha Ali

Full- and part-time study options will be available for applicants from undergraduate programs or for current industry experts looking for professional development. Full-time students will complete the program in three semesters, while part-time study is expected to take four to six semesters.

“We employ a unique flipped-classroom mode, which is a hybrid of remote and in-person learning where students review lecture material outside of class and spend in-class time on applied learning,” said Ali.

“This format provides the flexibility for students to learn at different paces and capitalizes on the nurturing and engaging U of G campus environment.”

The program has received recognition from the Vector Institute, an independent, not-for-profit corporation advancing research in the field of artificial intelligence. Vector recognition is reserved for master’s programs in Ontario that deliver an artificial intelligence-related curriculum equipping graduates with skills and competencies sought by industry. Qualifying programs gain exclusive access to scholarships, as well as networking and career opportunities for students.

Students will also be able to build a portfolio of their work and take part in additional networking opportunities and hands-on skill-building through course projects.

The master of data science program is now accepting applications, with offers of admission subject to formal program approval.

Prospective students are advised that the program is still subject to formal approval by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance.

For more information, visit the program page. Questions about the program from prospective students should be directed to mdsgrad@uoguelph.ca