Q&A with Professor Bagirov on Data Science

Posted by Sandy Lashin-Curewitz | September 09, 2015

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for market research analysts is expected to grow by more than 41 percent through the year 2020. To help fulfill the demand for skilled professionals with an understanding of big data, we introduced the B.S. in Data Science. Who better to tell you more about the program than the person who founded it, Professor Feyzi Bagirov?

Professor Feyzi Bagirov

Professor Bagirov, of Boston, holds a bachelor's degree in international economics from Azerbaijan University in Baku, Azerbaijan, and an M.B.A. with a focus in entrepreneurship. He also achieved the rank of staff sergeant in his years of service with the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

What inspired you to found the data science program to Becker College?

In the early 2000s, the corporate world experienced an incredible transformation. More businesses completed transactions online, which allowed them to reach broader audiences. Every transaction was recorded—and by 2009, an average corporate database contained about five petabytes, or 1,000,000 gigabytes of data.

In 1998, Google started logging every search made. In 2004, Facebook started logging every interaction their users were making. And in 2005, YouTube began moving vast amounts of video data across the globe. At the time, current technologies weren't capable of handling the massive amounts of big data, so new technologies evolved, which required different competencies.

While working in and teaching analytics, I was constantly learning from the industry. At Becker, I saw the opportunity to build a program that incorporated all of the things that I was learning and teaching every day.

What will make the data science program at Becker College unique?

Last September, there were more than 120 analytics and data science programs being offered in the U.S., but only 14 of them were at the undergraduate level. Building a foundation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) early on is very important. These skills are necessary for learning to access, retrieve, clean, and analyze data later on. Becker College's B.S. in data science will serve as the foundation that leads students to success in graduate programs and in their future careers. 

What differentiates a data science program from statistical studies, and what will separate Becker College's degree program from others, is an exposure to big data. Our students get hands-on experience by working with big data and building a project portfolio while they study. This is critical, as employers naturally prefer candidates who have not only studied the concepts, but have also applied them.

What changes or growth do you foresee in the field in the next five years?

In 2013, IBM researchers found that 90 percent of all the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

We are entering an era of the Internet Of Things (IoT), and by 2020, about 30 billion objects may be connected to the IoT, compared to roughly 10 billion in 2013. The amount of data generated will continue to grow tremendously. For example, a Boeing 787 generates 40 terabytes per hour; oil & gas off-shore rig operation generates eight terabytes a day; a self-driving car generates one gigabyte per second; General Electric gas turbines generate 500 gigabytes per day; and the list goes on.

As the demand for data grows, so too will the demand for human capital and quantitative techniques (statistics, data mining, forecasting, optimization, etc.). In 2011, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that, “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.” Our data science students are part of that future human capital. 

What are some possible career paths for students with a data science background?

There is a misconception that as a data scientist, you are most likely to work in finance or marketing. This is not the case. Wall Street analysts are trying to predict the next stock move; a Google data scientist studies user behavior to optimize an ad; a healthcare analyst studies patient data to develop a treatment plan to keep the patient out of the hospital for as long as possible; cybersecurity data scientists identify the next cyber-attack from overseas; a game data scientist studies its users to increase their engagement and maximize monetization.

If you prefer donating your time and skills for the greater good, there are numerous applications of big data in non-profit organizations. Non-profits may use data to learn about homelessness and child poverty, to improve access to education by supporting tutors, and to find missing children.

Do you have any advice for students who think they might be interested in pursuing data science?

I do:
  • Learn coding and statistical basics as early as possible.
  • Learn to work with new sources and types of data.
  • Build a foundation of knowledge in your undergraduate program. Then, consider advancing your education in a graduate program.
  • Build your project portfolio along the way by volunteering your skills.

To learn more about studying data science at Becker, contact us at admissions@becker.edu.

Topics: About Becker, Academics

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