Too Much Information!

Unique Undergraduate Program in Data Science and Engineering

Dr Gila Molcho, coordinator of the Data Science and Engineering program, explains the novel track to potential students on open day

By Amanda Jaffe-Katz

Historically, the Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) was the first of its kind in Israel, and most likely worldwide. So, it is no surprise that IEM is again pioneering the way: Providing multidisciplinary training to engineers for the burgeoning field of Big Data, or Data Science and Engineering (DSE) as IEM prefers to call it.

With the accelerated quantity of data being created, improved communications capabilities, and the increased amount of information being stored, the DSE program, conceived and developed at IEM, reflects the shifting ground rules in the world in general, and in the world of computing in particular: Data, information, and knowledge have become an essential part of organizational operations and business strategy. Accordingly, the demand for data scientists is consistently growing, salaries of data scientists are high, and those in the profession are regularly head-hunted.

For Many years, IEM has successfully educated graduate students in the field of Data Science, winning numerous awards for their research. Recently, IEM has developed DSE as an undergraduate degree Excellence Program within the faculty. Accreditation from the Council for Higher Education, to recognize the DSE BSc degree track, is anticipated. Such a novel undergraduate program will not only train professionals to work in industry, but will also prepare students for Technion-wide graduate work in Big Data.

Top students are recruited to the DSE program. From day one, they study high-level math, statistics, and programming. Four key areas to data science are addressed: Data Gathering, Management and Storage, Analytics, and finally Visualization and Dissemination of the knowledge created. The multidisciplinary nature of the IEM faculty - with expertise in high-level statistics, operations research, computation and economics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and more - enables a broad choice of relevant elective courses.

“Getting data to academia from industry remains somewhat of a challenge, but the focus shifts to what to do with the data once you have it.”

Most of the required courses already exist, but they are now offered with an added twist of using Big Data sets - ready and available within IEM, allowing students practical access to real data. "Previously, obtaining data was problematic," says Prof. Avishai Mandelbaum, IEM dean and a central figure in the DSE program; "nowadays, getting data to academia from industry remains somewhat of a challenge, but the focus shifts to what to do with the data once you have it."

"Sometimes, the data we seek to analyze are noisy and often fast changing. Our challenge is to extract added value from the data, and to enable a timely response," continues Mandelbaum, who holds the Benjamin and Florence Free chair in Operations Research, Statistics, and Service Engineering. Prime examples of data sources are transportation systems and RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) data. The latter are abundant nowadays, and can be found over a wide variety of locations, from shopping malls through storage systems to hospitals.

The local industry is already on board, offering scholarships and arranging internships before the elite students even finish their Technion training. This provides undergrad students with a unique opportunity for early hands-on industrial experience.

In addition to Mandelbaum, two faculty members with expertise in data science related areas, Profs. Oren Kurland and Avigdor Gal, serve as the academic co-directors the program.

Tech Talks

Arik Senderovich of the Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, giving his winning talk on "Mining Location Data for the Health Economy." Senderovich is supervised by Profs. Avishai Mandelbaum and Avigdor Gal

Inspired by TED talks (short, powerful talks presenting new ideas), the Jacobs Graduate School initiated Tech Talks in February 2016, in the presence of guests of honor Dr Irwin and Joan Jacobs. Four graduate students, representing different faculties, spoke in each of two sessions - Big Data and Cancer - and the audience voted for best talk. First and third place were won by Big Data students.