We’re surrounded by data. Consider your daily coffee purchases: the specific drink you purchase, or whether you decide to go for a second cup for an afternoon pick-me-up? Everything you do, from something as mundane as your daily coffee run to the car you choose to drive, contributes to data collection. There are myriad forms and categories of data. All of it is sorted and stored into a repository called a database.
Companies hire data analysts to interact with and organize these databases. An analyst also peruses the data and interprets identifiable patterns and trends. While a major in Computer Science or any other related technological field along with practical experience can qualify someone to work the role of a data analyst, CCI offers a major exclusively in Data Science with a curriculum focused on the specifics of data interpretation and analysis.
We spoke to sisters and Data Science majors Sabah Lala and Sanobar Lala about how their personal experiences at Drexel have taught them how to excel in data science, and how to succeed in data science co-op positions.
Data Science in the Classroom
Gaining experience in the classroom at Drexel can help students figure out how to be good at data science, an emerging field that students may not be aware of prior to enrolling in college.
“No one really knows what Data Science is before they enter college because these nuances in the technology industry have itself been taken some time to develop,” explains Sabah.
“One of my favorite classes I took as soon as I switched in was Info 332: Exploratory Data Analysis. There I learned what are the basics skills in a Data Scientist’s tool box (Python, R, Tableau for Data Viz, etc). I learned how to create graphs and use the power of Statistics through the programming language R to find solutions to problems,” Sabah said.
Data Science on Co-Op
One of the ways Drexel students can learn how to be a good data science student beyond the classroom is to seek out co-op positions in the data science field where they can gain real-world experience. The Lala sisters have held co-op positions at companies including Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, DXC Technology, and Johnson & Johnson.
“I chose to take a position as a Data Analyst Intern at Johnson & Johnson knowing nothing about the world of data. On the job, I was given the opportunity to play around with huge amounts of suture data and learned the technique of forecasting. I fell in love with being able to look at data, identify patterns, and be able to create insights for people. I came back to campus and decided to switch my major to the new undergraduate data science program,” says Sabah about her very first co-op position, which helped introduce her to the field of Data Science.
Sanobar also gained hands-on data science experience at Johnson & Johnson.
“My first experience with Data Science related work was at my first co-op at Johnson & Johnson where I worked as a data analyst. I had no idea what I was getting into when I applied for that position, but since this position combined my interests of technology and medicine, I was willing to explore it. Through this co-op, I learned how to develop a data scientist mindset and how to use data visualization software such as tableau and R. One memorable project was to forecast sales of baby powder for the next year, keeping seasonality in account. Another project was to create a model that looked at pictures taken by an infrared camera to predict whether you have rheumatoid arthritis or not. It was at this position where I learned how I can use data and my interest in medicine to impact the healthcare system in a positive and revolutionary way,” explained Sanobar.
Advice for Data Science Students
“I started to realize how important data science is, because data is generated constantly and exists in every single domain industry, whether it be healthcare, music, retail etc. So I would definitely advise students who are interested in technology and another domain to go for data science! I am very grateful to Drexel CCI for introducing me to Data science in undergrad (most colleges only have data science as a masters program), and I hope to work as a medical data analyst for my career in the future and also plan to get a masters in healthcare informatics,” shared Sanobar.
Sabah's advice is to explore diverse co-op positions. “Data Science is all about domain knowledge and Drexel co-ops are the best way to gain knowledge on as many of them as possible be it the healthcare field, financial field, and more. I personally did my co-ops in the human resources, healthcare and sales fields. They have given me experiences that have allowed me to figure out what I like working with but more importantly what I do not like or would not prefer working on as a future career," she said.