UBC creates new data sciences minor following growing student demand

The faculty of science will offer a new data sciences minor starting in September.

Comprised of 33 credits, the minor is a combination of data science, statistics and computer science courses. The minor's website calls the program interdisciplinary and interdepartmental, with a goal of helping students to perform data science tasks in conjunction with their major.

In order to apply for the minor, students must have a declared major. Applications are only accepted from students who are in their 2nd or 3rd year.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Associate Professor Gabriela V. Cohen Freue from the department of statistics emphasized the benefits of the minor.

“Other than having a credential, students will be well trained in the Data Science skills that are so useful nowadays in any kind of job,” she said.

The minor will also help students deal with real world problems, provide them with a sense of belonging and give them a community of students who are studying the same courses as them, Freue said.

In a separate interview, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science Sara Harris also spoke to the importance of the minor.

“Another benefit for students, and the community we all live in, is that there are ways in which data is presented to people that isn't correct and is misleading, and when students are able to recognize that incorrect data, it is an advantage to all of us,” said Harris.

Looking at the data

UBC currently offers a Masters program for data sciences, but nothing equivalent exists for undergraduate students.

“Before the minor there was no credential or certificate that undergraduate students could get in the area of data science,” said Dr. Tiffany Timbers, an assistant statistics professor and co-director for the Master of Data Science program.

The absence of the minor was first felt in 2018, when the Dean’s office called for a meeting to discuss the courses being offered by other universities around the world.

“Students came up to us, asking to be guided in the direction of the department of Data Sciences, and we had nowhere to guide them to,” said Timbers.

After taking multiple surveys with students and professors, and the popularity of Data Sciences 100 — an introductory data sciences course introduced in 2018 — it was decided that the department of data sciences needed a minor.

“A lot of students were interested in that course and we thought we should provide students with this credential,” said Timbers.

Professors hope to see a positive response for this new development in the fall term of 2021.

For questions about the Data Science Minor program requirements, email the Data Science Minor Advisor.