July 25, 2016

UC Berkeley’s burgeoning data science curriculum was one of the topics discussed at this year’s Microsoft Faculty Summit, held July 13-15 in Redmond, Washington. The event included more than 500 top academic and research scientists, with prominent speakers such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

“Meeting the challenge of educating data scientists” was the focus of a panel that featured Berkeley astronomy professor Joshua Bloom, who has been actively engaged in teaching and research related to data scBill Gates at Faculty Summitience. Bloom was joined in the panel by faculty members from Columbia University and the University of Washington, as well as a member of Microsoft’s research team.  The panelists discussed how, at each institution, faculty were trying in their own ways to take pragmatic steps to imbue data science into their education programs given the growing importance of data to academia and industry.

“Berkeley’s undergraduate data science curriculum is going to be one of the crowning achievements of U.S. universities in the field of data science,” Bloom said. “Even if you’re not going to be a programmer, we want all of our students to be data literate, to understand what you can do with data, how to tell stories with data and think critically about it. Berkeley is the leader in that.”

Launched in 2015-16, Berkeley’s Data Science Education Program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that allows undergraduates of all majors to achieve fluency in the theory and practice of Data Science. It builds from an entry-level foundational course coupled with innovative connector courses that let students explore real world topics ranging from immigration to childhood poverty to neuroscience, opening up to a spectrum of advanced courses beyond.

Bloom said it was clear that Microsoft and other firms see data science education and fluency as critical – not only for the advancement of technological advancement and research – but also for building the workforce of the future.

“Microsoft would like for programs like Berkeley’s to flourish, because data science is the number one set of skills required for the future -- not just for people in software engineering -- but also for their marketing and sales people,” Bloom said. “Today we’re coming to the point where everybody needs to be conversant with data.”

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIIbpMrQc9U&feature=youtu.be

Berkeley faculty were well-represented at the event. David Culler, Freisen Professor of Computer Science and co-director of the Data Science Initiative, was part of a panel focused on “Enabling Breakthrough and Disruptive Technologies”, while Joseph Gonzalez, assistant professor of computer science, participated in the “Complete Learning Systems” panel. Ming C. Wu, Nortel Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, was part of the “Optical Networks for the Cloud” panel.

More information:

UC Berkeley Data Science Initiative

Microsoft Faculty Summit 2016

Microsoft Research blog post on the Faculty Summit