New College’s Commencement Includes First Graduates of Data Science Program

Published on Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by David Gulliver

 

On Friday, May 26, New College of Florida will hold its 51st commencement ceremony, but it also will be a first – the graduation of the first students from the College’s new data science master’s degree program.

All seven of the data science graduates are headed to jobs – four of them in Florida – and most with the companies for which they interned during the program. (In the second year of the New College program, students first work on campus on projects provided by industry partners, then work at the companies themselves.)

These jobs are among the highest-paying in the economy. The latest survey from PayScale.com found the median salary for a data scientist in the United States is $91,000 a year.

Alumni Philip Pope and Erin Craig both returned to New College to enroll in the program.

Pope was already working as a data scientist in Washington, D.C. “I knew how rapidly the field was changing, and that if I were to have any hope of survival, I would need to build a solid foundation in data science,” he said. “So I came back to New College to do just that.”

Craig was working at Wolfram Research when she decided to return, looking for “an opportunity to challenge myself,” she said.

Which she did, working with real-world data sets from fields including health care and IT security, and in roles from data engineering to visualization to modeling. She also organized the regional affiliate of the nationwide Women in Data Science conference in February.

“I fell in love with data science!” she said. “And on the way, I learned about myself… This experience showed me what I enjoy most, and it gave me opportunities to grow both as a data scientist and as an individual.”

Craig praised the Data Science faculty for their willingness to work outside of class with the students, and Pope cited the close working relationships with his fellow students and the chance to pursue his own ideas.

One message he would share for all students: “I would encourage future students to think critically for themselves and back their claims up with data. This, in my view, is the essential task of the data scientist.”

Craig is still deciding between job offers, while Pope has already accepted a position as a machine learning engineer with Clarifai, a New York City artificial intelligence company specializing in deep learning.

“My duties include data engineering and researching human-based computation,” he said. “I am excited to be working on the cutting edge of computer vision.”