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University of Miami: Dynamic Data Science programmes in a smart city

When you think of Miami, sandy white beaches, blue waters and warm climates come to mind.

These days, it’s also one of America’s leading technology hubs. Case in point — the new interactive touchscreen kiosks “IKE” being installed in strategic locations around the city.

“We are thrilled to partner with the City of Miami, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative cities in the country. IKE will further activate the pedestrian experience while narrowing the digital divide through widespread connectivity and equal access to information,” says Pete Scantland, IKE Smart City CEO.

With this latest addition of kiosks, Michael Sarasti — CIO, as well as the Director of Innovation and Tech, for the City of Miami — believes that it is “much easier to advocate for data-driven decision making because Miami wants to be a smart city.”

The future is in data science

Indeed, the University of Miami has long recognised that technology, innovation and progress have been and will always be a big part of the City of Miami’s future. The Institute for Data Science and Computing (IDSC) was initially the Centre for Computational Science built in 2007 to serve as a high-performance computing and software engineering hub.

The University of Miami

Aerial shot of the City of Miami. Source: The University of Miami

Now with the recent US$12 million endowment from the Knight Foundation and Philip and Patricia Frost, the IDSC can establish their endowed faculty chairs to recruit innovators and thought leaders — made more attractive by the University of Miami’s research computing infrastructure that is not offered in any other academic institution. That way, they can help cement the City of Miami as an international tech hub.

“As the University of Miami embraces this turning point in the evolution of technology — catalysing data-intensive research to solve pressing societal problems — this will allow us to go further and go faster,” says Jeffrey L. Duerk, the university’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “While the internet powered the last tech revolution, data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will drive the next one.”

Around 5,400 new data science jobs are projected to be created over the next 10 years, and employment for data and information research scientists is set to increase by 19% come 2026 — faster than average for other professions. Little wonder that the demand for technical talent is now on the rise in Miami — and where better than to study at the University of Miami, the research leader in the region.

The fact that Miami is committed to becoming a smart city and allows many startups to be established there should also be a great incentive to embark on the University of Miami’s Master of Data Science (MSDS) programme offered by the College of Arts and Sciences in partnership with IDSC, currently in its second year.

Programme courses and components

 Supercomputer bearing the University of Miami logo. Source: The University of Miami

The interdisciplinary curriculum includes core courses, data science tools courses, data science applications courses and an internship or capstone project. Thirty credits of graduate level courses should also be completed in order to graduate; the advisor has to approve the student’s course selection.

“This is a very personalised programme, where students can focus on their areas of interest and work at their own pace,” says Mitsu Ogihara, professor of computer science, site director of the National Science Foundation’s University of Miami CARTA (UM CARTA), and director of IDSC Workforce Development and Education.

Students on the MSDS programme can choose from six diverse areas of concentration in applied fields. For example, the latest two — offered in 2022 — are Educational Measurement and Statistics, and Marketing (strategic branding, market research and consumer behaviour). Smart Cities will suit those interested in urban planning and design, and sustainable built environments; Data Visualisation is more for those who like intelligence analytics and visual journalism.

As part of their experiential learning opportunities, students can participate in internships — in  GameChangerTec, Safe Esteem, SilverLogic, among other prestigious organisations — with the help of IDSC and the University of Miami’s Toppel Career Centre. They can also register with IDSC’s partner, the IBM Skills Academy, that will provide university students with recognised credentials (digital badges) under the guidance of IBM-certified instructors.

Diverse courses as part of personalised learning

Jeronimo Pissinis, a current student from Argentina, believes that this programme has taught him many critical skills including the making and application of machine learning models, evaluating statistical learning models and code debugging.

“I also like the diversity of the offered courses which let me explore different fields and adapt the programme to fit my own interests,” adds Pissinis. He also notes that the faculty and staff “have always been very approachable and helpful.”

“My most memorable class — Geographic Information Systems — is all about hands-on experience which is so valuable, and there were lots of opportunities to develop new skills. I also got to utilise the knowledge from other courses, something I found to be really useful,Cate Morenzoni, another current student, enthuses.

The programme will welcome another cohort of 25 students come Fall, and hopes to increase the enrollment in 2022 by offering tuition waivers. For students wishing to join this programme, click here.

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