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Reinforcing their commitment to developing innovative, interdisciplinary programs, the Committee on Data Science (CDS) recently formed to launch a doctorate in philosophy in data science. CDS focuses on developing cross-departmental expertise, with faculty members coming from a wide set of disciplines and areas of expertise.

Data science has the potential to revolutionize virtually every industry and field of study, from medicine to social sciences to corporate decision making. CDS has taken an innovative approach to this emerging discipline. The program incorporates the conventional elements of computer science and statistics with ethics, economics, law and public policy, philosophy of science, and social impact. Those in the PhD program will play a pivotal role in driving this holistic, theory-driven approach to data science.

“We’re at a historical inflection point where fundamental questions about the fields of data science and artificial intelligence need to be asked and answered,” said Michael J. Franklin, faculty co-director of the Data Science Institute (DSI), Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science, and Senior Advisor to the Provost for Computation and Data Science. “Our PhD program gives students the opportunity to contribute foundational knowledge and create innovative tools and methods that will power the development of this rapidly evolving field while simultaneously preparing them to meet the demands of industry and academia.”

Seeking intellectually-curious students

Applications are now open to students, with plans for the inaugural class to be admitted from a wide range of background disciplines, including computer science, statistics, mathematics, biological and physical sciences, the social sciences, and more.

“Data science is interdisciplinary by nature,” said Dan Nicolae, Elaine M. and Samuel D. Kersten, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in Statistics and faculty co-director of DSI. “It requires individuals who not only have strong analytical skills, but also deep domain knowledge and communications skills that enable them to engage with diverse audiences on a variety of topics.”

Franklin, Nicolae, and the rest of the Committee on Data Science expect to admit the first cohort of students who reflect this value of cross-domain curiosity. “With that in mind,” said Nicolae, “our focus will go beyond the academic background of applicants to identify those who are attracted to exploring the foundational questions of data science and who are genuinely intellectually curious about this new field.”

Students enrolled in the program will take courses on foundational topics such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, data ethics, data interaction, data systems and design, and scalable computing. Outside their coursework, students will also engage in cutting-edge research focusing on seven core domains: artificial intelligence, data systems, human-centered data science, machine learning and statistics, theory, use-inspired data science, and data, AI, and society.

A supportive, University-wide ecosystem

The new PhD is part of UChicago’s Data Science Initiative, a coordinated, campus-wide plan to expand education, research, and outreach in the field.

Under the initiative, the University has added more than a dozen faculty to its Departments of Computer Science and Statistics in the last five years, most of whom specialize in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and data systems. In the last 5 years, the University of Chicago’s commitment to data science has led to the launch of an undergraduate major and minor, a masters of science in applied data science, and a masters of science in data science.

The Data Science Institute, launched in 2021, executes the University’s bold vision of data science as a new discipline, seeding interdisciplinary research, forming partnerships with industry, government, and social impact organizations, and supporting holistic data science education.

The University’s efforts in data science and AI also benefit from long-standing relationships with Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the Toyota Technological Institute of Chicago, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. These relationships provide the opportunity to collaborate with other top scientists and access state-of-the-art facilities.

How to apply

The Committee on Data Science is now accepting applications for the program, until January 4th, 2024. The first cohort will begin during the 2024-2025 academic year.

“We look forward to welcoming the first class of data science PhD students to campus and helping them become the next generation of leaders in the field,” said Angela V. Olinto, dean of the Physical Sciences Division and Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor. “The program our faculty have developed promises to provide them with both the fundamental and applied skills they need to succeed in this exciting and rapidly-growing field.”

To learn more about the Data Science PhD at the University of Chicago, join the Committee on Data Science for an informational session on November 16th at 5pm.