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Forester News

Data science is now available at Lake Forest College

Last fall, Lake Forest College launched data science, a new interdisciplinary academic offering, to meet an intensifying demand for expertise in the management and analysis of data.

The new program emphasizes instruction and training in the areas of quantitative finance and economics, statistical analysis, and computer science—particularly, computer vision and “big data” strategies. While it falls under the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, the program is designed to add value to and complement any major and is easily accessible to all students, requiring no previous computing instruction and only successful completion of high-school mathematics. This accessibility allows students from all fields to easily study data science and apply that knowledge to their own careers and fields of study.

“The field of data science has grown out of the reality that everything in society today revolves around data,” said DeJuran Richardson, Ernest H. Volwiler Professor of Mathematics, Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science. “There’s the need to be able to acquire data in an efficient way, store it in an efficient way, summarize it in meaningful ways, and then analyze it in order to make decisions. Data science deals with all of that.”

Students are working with faculty on many data science research projects, including statistical analysis of the intensity and rate of helmet contacts in college football, image-based classification of body language poses to emotions, applying machine learning and statistical algorithms on the human genome to predict colorectal cancer, and developing software in collaboration with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center of Chicago.

Because of those research opportunities and training, Foresters studying data science have already found internships at Abbot Laboratories, Accenture, Airspace, Wolverine Trading, and many other companies. Students who have studied data science have gone on to pursue career paths in actuarial science, biostatistics, data analytics, financial analysis, machine learning engineering, marketing analytics, and sports analytics. Based on the growing need for data science experts, faculty anticipate enrollment in this major to out-pace those in math or computer science.

Students already enrolled in the new major are enthusiastic about the program. “What the College is doing with its data science program is giving students a very strong basis in computer science as a whole,“ said George Napier ’20, a double major in computer science and neuroscience.

While exploring master’s degree programs for his next step after graduating from Lake Forest College, data science major Leo Carrico ’20 has discovered the work he is doing now at the College will have a big impact on his future success. “When I’m talking to recruiters for those programs, they always mention that doing both research and getting an undergraduate degree in data science is extremely beneficial to work on my master’s and to find a job after graduation,” Carrico said.

Nationally, Illinois is becoming a leader in the field of data science. The state ranks fourth nationally with 9,160 professionals employed in data science-related occupations. Statewide, jobs in the field have grown by 16.6 percent annually since 2013—more than twice the national growth rate of 7.9 percent.

The Illinois Science and Technology Institute—a STEM-focused nonprofit that provides programs and partnerships to connect companies with classrooms—featured Lake Forest College’s data science program in its 2019 Talent Index. ISTI has connected 1,700 students from 40 schools with over 450 mentors from companies around the state. 

For more information on the College’s program, including a video of Professor DeJuran talking about data science, go to lakeforest.edu/datascience.