Industry ready: New master’s program will train the data scientists of tomorrow

A master’s in modeling, data, and predictions will prepare graduates for work in industry or government as data scientists and analysts.

Katie Willis - 16 December 2020

From insurance to government to health care, the need for custom-built and machine learning-enabled models is only growing. Now, a new master’s program offered by the University of Alberta is dedicated to training the next generation of data scientists and analysis. 

The Modeling, Data, and Predictions (MDP) program is the first of its kind in Canada. This course-based degree integrates training in mathematical modeling, statistical modeling, data analytics, and statistical machine learning. 

“The primary objective of the program is to train students with skills in data modeling, data analytics, programming, and computation,” said Michael Li, professor in the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. “Graduates with this innovative skill set are competitive in the data-science job market—which is of critical importance in our increasingly data-driven world.” 

So, what exactly is the data-science job market? Any business or organization that collects data, and uses that data to make predictions or decisions. Think insurance companies or financial institutions who aim to provide better service to clients. Another example is disease modeling, such as the work of alumna Betsy Varughese, one of Li’s former graduate students, and her work modeling the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta

Inspired by former graduate students such as Varughese, Li worked closely with his colleagues in the Faculty of Science to build the MDP program. Now, two years later, the MDP program is open for applications. 

When asked what will set graduates from the MDP program apart, Li explained students trained in mathematics and statistics have a special skill set that allows them to both understand data problems and custom-build solutions. 

“Our training enables the students to be creative at problem solving, and the problem-solving skills are in demand at work places,” said Li. “In addition to the courses that provide the core skills, the program design also provides students with internship opportunities for hands-on learning in effective communication, working in a team, leadership, and more.”

Another critical element is the integration of interdisciplinary research opportunities, giving students experience in working across disciplines and demonstrating the value of diverse viewpoints. 

“This seemed to be a winning formula for some of my former graduate students,” added Li. “It has been inspiring to see their success and how much they enjoy their work.”

The University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science already leads the world in fields such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and data science. The MDP is created to increase the UAlberta’s training capacity to meet the industry demand in the field. 

The MDP master’s program is made possible through collaboration with faculty members Chris Frei, Linglong Kong, Ivan Mizera, Jay Newby, and Hao Wang

Learn more about the MDP master’s program.