KENNESAW, Ga. | May 26, 2021
Kennesaw State University student Alyssa Venn considers herself an early adopter of data science.
While working toward an bachelor’s degree in computational and applied mathematics, she picked up an undergraduate minor in applied statistics and analytics hoping to gain a bit of exposure in one of the nation’s fastest growing fields. At the time, she didn’t anticipate the amount of doors the minor program would open.
“The number of projects you can involve yourself in at the School of Data Science and Analytics and the variety of industry sponsors it attracts has really shown me that data science is everywhere,” said Venn, who is now working toward a master’s degree in applied statistics and analytics. “Both as an undergraduate and graduate student, I’ve enjoyed the freedom that comes with finding answers to challenging questions, and it has caused me to reflect on my career path and to think critically about how I can apply my skills.”
Today, Venn is one of 4,200 students who are served at the undergraduate and graduate levels by the School of Data Science in Analytics. Launched in January, the School is unique in that it serves all levels of students by offering a full range of academic programs, including the country’s first Ph.D. in Analytics and Data Science. The school also offers a master’s degree and minor in applied statistics and analytics, and three online certificates.
In addition to the range of industries represented among the School’s sponsors, there is also great variety in the background of its students, said Shashank Hebbar, who is nearing completion of the Ph.D. program. A native of India, Hebbar enrolled at Kennesaw State with a background in engineering. After earning his master’s degree at N.C. State, he wanted to capitalize on a newfound interest in analytics and learned of KSU’s Ph.D. program through his roommate and immediately applied.
“My experience prior to the program was very surface level, so I wanted an opportunity to take a deeper dive and invest heavily into research and push the boundaries of analytics,” he said. “With this being a growing field and with KSU offering a first-of-its-kind degree, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.”
Since arriving on campus, Hebbar's research has centered around using natural language processing to help speed the development process of pharmaceuticals, partially inspired by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He credits both his professors and classmates for helping grow his skills.
“The faculty have been incredibly supportive, and we have an abundant amount of resources at our disposal to aid our research,” he said. “My classmates are also very collaborative and always are willing to assist on projects. I consider many of them friends for life based on our time together.”
Like Hebbar, Jacob Rybak found his way to the School of Data Science and Analytics despite having little background in the field. An economics and finance double major, the bulk of his undergraduate research has taken place through applied statistics and analytics minor under the guidance of Susan Hardy, senior lecturer of statistics. Rybak, whose research centers around prison reform and recidivism, has gone on to present at 11 different research conferences, including ones hosted by Harvard University, Virginia Tech and Stanford University, the latter of which invited him as a plenary speaker.
“I think the minor has really made me more marketable because potential employers can recognize that I have experience in building statistical models, analyzing data with statistics, using computer programs to query data and run analysis on it,” Rybak said. “If anything has come from this experience, it’s that I have become a more complete package and will be well-informed on how to make a difference in industry.”
– Travis Highfield
Photos by Jason Getz and David Caselli
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.