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A Path to Data Science

News Article by Adam Danz, PhD Candidate

Big Data ImageSeveral recent alumni from the department of Brain and Cognitive Science have gone into the field of data science, which is an increasingly popular alternative to academia for people in our field. It is said that 90% of the world’s data has been generated in the past 2 years, and it is a reasonable assumption that the same proportion of the world’s data scientists have entered the field in the same amount of time. Here’s a summary I put together of the initial steps others have taken in preparation for getting a job in data science following graduation. 

Boot Camps

The two most respected and industrially connected data science boot camps seem to be the Insight Data Science Fellows Program and the Data Incubator. Both programs are offered in several cities across America and include fully remote online options, too. These intensive training programs offer free tuition but come with the expectation to accept a job offer from one of their many clients, which includes almost every major online corporation. These boot camps seem perfect for a recent PhD graduate looking to add some tools to their analytical belt before interviewing for a job in data science, but they are certainly not a requirement to enter the field. 

Online Courses

Coursera offers a 10-course specialization in Data Science that covers the full data science pipeline and culminates in a final capstone project that will get your portfolio started. 


Industry standards for code languages are ‘R’ and Python so if you’re a Matlab user (like me) and need to brush up on these other languages, start now. Python offers the ‘panda’ and ‘sklearn’ libraries that will come in handy. Being comfortable with at least one of these two languages is mandatory before entering the field. As a recent Wired article states, ‘the next big blue-collar job is coding’.  

Projects and Competitions 

A good way to brush up on your coding skills and to develop your portfolio of data science projects at the same time is to participate in some online data science projects and competitions


According to several recent UR graduates who have transitioned into data scientist positions, it’s very common for businesses to be looking for freshly graduated quantitative PhDs that know data science tools. The people I spoke with had no trouble getting interviews despite no onsite data science or industrial experience. One individual was hired no later than a few months after quitting his post doc position and completing one of the boot camps I mentioned. His first interview was a two-day coding challenge! Since the field is so new, its demands and requirements are very broad, ranging from traditional statistics and creating innovative visualizations to working with multi dimensional, unstructured data. Eventually the supply of newly minted data scientists will catch up with demand, so now is the time to take advantage of the value that industries have placed on this skill set.

Tracey Baas | 4/7/2017

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