CSM panel program explores opportunities in data analytics

CSM panel program explores opportunities in data analytics

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The field of data mining is hot, and on Sept. 25 the College of Science & Mathematics (CSM) hosted a panel discussion and networking program to explore just how hot it is.

While companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are well known for analyzing data to improve profits and customer service, countless companies today mine rich data veins to identify trends, explore opportunities and improve operations. And they’re clamoring for talented professionals who can take raw data and tell them what it means.

“The need for data science professionals has just exploded,” said CSM Dean Karen Magee-Sauer. “Companies collect so much data. The question is, how will they best use data to inform their strategic and operational decisions?”

While the answer to that question varies, representatives from five major corporations – Jingjing Qu of Comcast, Melvin Moore ('02) of Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Carol Thomas of Inspira Health Network, Chirag Vora of JPMorgan Chase, and Matthew Long of Lockheed Martin – attended the program to explain some of the ways their organizations use data and to encourage students to consider careers in the field.

Addressing more than 180 attendees in the Eynon Ballroom of the Chamberlain Student Center, the speakers said the evolving field of data analytics is producing unprecedented levels of quality information that can be applied in countless ways.

For example:

At Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, analysts pour through data troves to try to predict who among their customers are likely to be hospitalized from a variety of illnesses. Their goal: to keep customers healthier and to protect the company’s bottom line.

Taking a similar, “predictive modeling” approach, Comcast plumbs data on customers and potential customers, seeking to avoid “churn,” the phrase they use to describe the tendency among some who might leave the cable and internet carrier for other offers.

Analysts at military contractor Lockheed Martin crunch data for a variety of purposes, including helping to model how weapons systems such as the hyper-expensive Aegis missile program will work

“We make use of extensive predictive modeling to mitigate costs associated with live testing,” said Long, a 2013 Rowan graduate who earned his B.S. in Physics and returned for the first cohort of students in Rowan’s new Master of Science program in data analytics, graduating last May.

Rowan offer degrees, certificates and coursework to ensure that students have the credentials employers are looking for. In addition to the M.S. degree, Rowan offers a new undergraduate minor in data analytics that’s open to all majors as well as Certificates of Graduate Study in Health Data Analytics and Computational Data Analytics.  The latter are four-course alternatives to the full Master’s degree in Data Analytics.

Assistant Professor Tony Breitzman, coordinator of the college’s data analytics programs, said the field is still in its infancy and poised for tremendous growth.

He noted that employment site Glassdoor.com lists four of the top 10 jobs in America as analytics-based including data scientist (#1), data engineer (#3), analytics manager (#5) and database administrator (#7).

“There is a lot of opportunity,” he said, “especially in fields like insurance, retail, and banking.”

Indeed, many students attending the program said the analytics field is impossible to ignore, especially for those with a passion for science and math.

“Making business decisions based on statistics fascinates me,” said Dylan Laureys, 18, a freshman engineering entrepreneurship major from Williamstown.

Laureys said that while he’s just starting his college career, the timing of the program was perfect.

“I thought it would be cool to get some exposure to it early on,” he said.

Tori Berntsen, 22, a senior biology major from Toms River, seeks a career in environmental microbiology but sees analyitics as an invaluable 21st Century tool.

“It’s extremely important,” she said. “My goal is to apply statistics and data mining to my research.”