College of Engineering announces big data minor

In five years, there will be more than 30 billion smart devices in the world, all producing data to be analyzed, collected, and shared, according to internet and cable service provider Spectrum.

A new, interdisciplinary minor in big data at the University of Nevada, Reno aims to provide students with both technical skills and knowledge to address evolving challenges in analyzing all that data.

The rapid advancement of computer and Internet technology allows for mass accumulation of data, and the minor, which is offered by the computer science and engineering department, focuses on opportunities in big data management, such as analysis, modeling and retrieval.

Lei Yang is one of the faculty members leading the big data minor. Yang was hired in 2015 by the College of Engineering. With his background in real-time control and data analytics, Yang focuses his research on cyber-physical systems.

Some of the companies that the College of Engineering have partnered with include Bombora, a data company with a division in Reno, and Marketing Evolution.

"These companies have many things to focus on, but not many people to work on it all," said Yang. "It's good work [for students], and the internships have real world applications."

Bombora collects intent data that businesses can use to inform sales and marketing decisions."Interns from the University have proven to be an incredible source of talent across the organization, but have had an especially outsized impact on Bombora's technology teams: Engineering, IT, Product and Data Science," said Nicholaus Halecky, Bombora's director of data science. "Student's contributions are captured by their participation directly as a member of a tech team, providing them industry experience in modern software development, workflows and technologies."

Students who choose this minor will be working on how to process big data, data mining, framework inspection and management of a student database.

"It's not only about data, but its complexity and context," said Feng Yan, an assistant professor in the computer science and engineering department. "Speech and media are becoming more complex and so is personal data. It keeps growing, for example, photos get more pixels and data."

"At a large scale, big data technologies will help solve big, open problems like cancer, national security and climate change," Yan said in a 2017 interview with Nevada Engineering. "More importantly, big data will also happen at a personal scale. You will have your own big data containing information about almost all aspects of your life."Data science, according to Yan and Yang, are becoming more popular due to a recent "data explosion." They predict it will be taught in schools to help students learn about it and deal with it early in life.

"Like math, you'll learn about data when you're young," said Yang.

Big data skills bring big jobs for scientists

The job opportunities for data scientists are also growing.

"We're close to the Bay Area, with Google and other tech companies. The data scientist salary is growing above average because [every company] is willing to pay more," said Yan.

There are currently more than 80 jobs in big data with open positions in Reno right now, according to Reported by a 2017 Burtch Works study of data scientists, the median starting salary is $95,000, while job website Indeed reports that the average data scientist makes $132,419 a year. Other jobs that students with big data minors can apply to include database administrators, data architects and engineers. The projected job growth for data scientists is projected to grow to 27.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. he skills needed for these jobs include designing a database, analyzing raw data and ensuring database stability.

EDAWN, or the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, reports that the local economy is booming and in need of data scientists thanks to the addition of tech companies like Apple, Google, Tesla, Switch, Clear Capital and Flirtey.

The minor isn't just for those in the College of Engineering. Professor Paromita Pain is new to the Reynolds School of Journalism this fall, and teaches a section of Data Journalism. The objectives of the course include identifying, cleansing and analyzing data to produce journalism, and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of data sources.

"The potential of big data is enormous, so before we delve into understanding its uses and applications, it is important to understand what Big data is."

Pain also says that data sets can be generated and used in every field and for a variety of purposes, such as law enforcement, medicine and business.

"For example, in journalism, we can use large data sets to analyze conversations around popular hashtags. or journalists can look at mortality rates over decades and states and analyze patterns," Pain said.

"Big data provides wonderful opportunities of interdisciplinary work. Computer scientists can work with journalists to create, analyze and visualize such data in detail for audiences to understand. The potential for big data is endless."

Courses that qualify as part of the minor include disciplines like statistics, computer science, mathematics and information systems, and requires a minimum of 18 credits. More information is available on the big data minor webpage.

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