NITC Supports the Creation of New Data Science Curriculum

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Principal Investigator: Liming Wang, Portland State University
Learn more about this curriculum and how you can apply it at your school by viewing the one-page Executive Summary and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page.

A NITC education grant funded a new course for planners, engineers, scientists and students to help improve their data processing workflow.

Liming Wang, an assistant professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning at Portland State University, is on a mission to simplify data processing. A NITC education grant supported his efforts to develop a new course: Introduction to Data Science. The course is designed to help students and professionals to improve their workflow for data-intensive research. The course covers how to collect data, clean them up, visualize, explore, model and eventually compile the data with findings in a report.

"I've pretty much always had the passion of how we can make data processing easier. It doesn't have to be difficult. We can train students to work efficiently with large volumes of data," Wang said.

What makes this course so unique? An expert in R, a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics, Dr. Wang cherry-picked different approaches to data processing into one cohesive overview:

  • Students learn version control using Git (keeping tab of new versions of code when members of the team modify it). This is key for the development of code, especially if multiple team members are involved in the project. 
  • His course introduces students to the key packages of R needed to clean, manipulate, and visualize data. 
  • The course project allows students to develop their own code and share it by creating a basic R package using best practices. 
  • Liming introduces students to R Markdown that can be used to produce reports.

Wang taught the course at PSU for the first time in Fall 2017 (read last year's syllabus), and is offering it again in the Spring 2018 term (fill out the interest form here).

    The course curriculum has evolved over time, drawn from a number of resources including the popular Software Carpentry project led by Greg Wilson at University of Toronto. Much of the content is available online, allowing students to work on their own time outside of the course.

    "I’m fond of this analogy: when grad students work with a high volume of data, it can feel like they are trying to drink from a hose. As teachers we should be able to help students develop the tools to handle such a situation," Wang said.

    The free availability of the curriculum is part of Wang's mission to make it easier to work with data. You can download the curriculum and teach this course to your students. NITC supports a broad range of curriculum development, and you can browse the available and ongoing projects funded through our Education Grants.

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