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Team Member Dave Summers Shares Thoughts on the Growing Data Science Field

UW Extended Campus September 22, 2015
professional headshot of dave summers

Meet a member of the UW Master of Science in Data Science program: Dave Summers. A data-driven professional with hands-on experience in the field, Dave guides University of Wisconsin faculty and staff in their efforts to teach and prepare the next generation of data scientists for career success.

Dave brings to the UW Data Science program years of analytics industry experience with leading companies. He earned his bachelor’s degree—a concentration in data analysis and research through the sociology department—from UW-Madison and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in predictive analytics.

Dave’s growing skill set includes R, Python, SQL, Tableau, SAS, SPSS, and more.

The UW Data Science blog team sat down with Dave to find out more about him and his thoughts on the field and UW Data Science program.

How did you get started in the field of data science?

I have always been fascinated by the potential to find insight and opportunity hidden within data—to turn large, disparate, and unstructured data sets into actionable information.

I loved the data analysis track I took in college. My first job was in metrics development and energy forecasting. Later, I got into business intelligence and data management. I enjoy the process of collecting, cleansing, manipulating, and visualizing data to tell a story. And there’s always a story to tell if you know how to find it.

What do you like most about data science?

I enjoy the challenge of diving into data sources to find answers.

What three aspects of the UW Data Science program do you find most attractive?

First is the flexible online format. It’s great for professionals who work full time. People can do this program and still tend to work and family, without school taking up their whole lives.

Second, I think the virtual environment is awesome. In the UW Data Science program, students don’t have to purchase, download, or install expensive software packages to work on them. Our virtual lab is a portal from which students can access everything they need. It’s really cool and separates our program from others I’ve seen. It’s sure to save students time and money.

Finally, I’m excited for the courses on unstructured data and data ethics. These are hot topics in data science today. DS 745: Visualization and Unstructured Data Analysis shows students how to mine and analyze text and web data from social networks, blogs, texts, and other sources, and also how to visualize the findings in a way that best suits the audience. DS 760: Ethics of Data Science explores ethical issues such as privacy, intellectual property, and data security. As data becomes more and more valuable, these issues will continue to challenge companies and gain importance.

What suggestions would you have for students considering this data science program?

Understand that the online format, while flexible, takes discipline. Students need to be self-motivated and committed to studying after work or other times they choose. It’s worth it to be able to earn a degree at this level without having to attend brick-and-mortar classes.

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How can prospective students tell if a career in data science is right for them?

If you are just starting to look into this field, I’d suggest visiting online resources such as R-bloggers, KDnuggets, and Dice. Read up on how data science is transforming the world and creating huge opportunities for organizations in every sector.

Another idea is to download and try the programming language R. It’s open source, so it’s free. It’s very popular in data science today. IEEE Spectrum’s 2015 ranking of the top programming languages placed R at number six—up three places from last year.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell prospective students?

If you think you’re interested in pursuing a master’s in data science, give us a call. If you’re intrigued by the field but unsure if it’s something you want to do, give us a call. My team and I will be happy to talk with you about data science and explain to you how the UW Master of Science in Data Science will prepare you for a successful career.

Looking to start or advance your career in data science? Find out why the online UW Master of Science in Data Science is a great program for working adults. Call 608-800-6762 or email to talk with an enrollment adviser today.

Programs: Data Science