Introduction to The Data Science Club

Article by Koriann South. Edited by Vivek Gupta.

When and why did the club start?

The Data Science Center is a passion project that has been in the works for several years. Prof. Jeff Phillips and others spent months trying for a data science center to help students interested in Data Science, which was still a fringe issue at the University when the center was founded. An official club was also a part of this pet project. Finally, in summer 2020, a group of six students — Grad student Vivek Gupta and Undergrads Serena Aeschilman, Todd Derrick, Tajen Freeman, Pranav Rajan, and Koriann South — joined together to make an official club. We spent that summer hosting Data Science guest lectures, and the club received official recognition in the autumn, when we began sponsoring more activities.

What’s the club’s goal?

The Data Science Club’s aim is to teach data science and machine learning to students of various skill levels (first year undergrad to senior Ph.D.) through tutorials, industry presentations, and hands-on experience. We want to make normally intimidating topics (like Deep Learning) more approachable through club activities.

What are the prerequisites to join?

Any student, regardless of major, year, or past experience, is welcome to join our activities. Similarly, any student with the time and desire to be a club coordinator can apply.

How often do you meet, and what do you do at meetings?

During the autumn and spring semesters, the Data Science Club meets around every two weeks. We like to mix technical events with social/skill-building activities. Workshops that we create ourselves or technical presentations from professors or industry experts are the most common kind of technical events. (You can check out prior workshops here and talks on our webpage here.). The types of social/skill-building activities vary, and might range from tea parties to GitHub tutorials.

Get on your soapbox: Why is this club important? Why should people join?

This club is significant to us because it lowers the data science entrance hurdle. Through the club, we have learned more about Data Science than we could have studied in a class, and we have been able to pass that information on to others in a way that we believe is easy to grasp for those who are just getting started with Data Science.

For many people, data science appears to be too difficult and frightening to understand or learn. We want to simplify the process. We want to contribute to the creation of a community in which we can all learn from and support one another. Learning does not have to be difficult or complicated just because the subject matter is.

We believe that anybody interested in Data Science should join the Data Science club, especially those who are intimidated by the topic or don’t know where to begin.

If people are interested, how can they join or find out more?

If you’re interested in attending one of our events, please join our Discord server and visit our website. If you want to be a coordinator, complete all of the steps above and submit an email to uofudatascienceclub@gmail.com with your name. Do sign up for our seminar mailing list.

Utah Center for Inclusive Computing (UCIC)

Recognizing the importance of inclusion in engineering and in computing, the University of Utah’s College of Engineering will be launching the Utah Center for Inclusive Computing (UCIC) in an effort to boost the percentage of students from groups currently underrepresented in computing.

The focus of the center will be to develop and implement programs that create a welcoming atmosphere for computing as a discipline and encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue computing-related undergraduate degrees.

School of Computing Director Mary Hall says, “Giving how important computing is to job growth in Utah, it is critical that the computing workforce be representative of the people of the state.”

While the percentage of female undergraduates in computing has tripled in the U’s College of Engineering over the last decade, the ratio of female to male students continues to be a concern. And Utah ranks among one of the lowest states in the U.S. in female participation in the STEM workforce. Also, students identifying as Latinx make up 13% of the students at the U but only 8% of the undergraduate majors in the U’s School of Computing.

To increase the percentage of students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in computing, the center will focus on three pressing needs: boosting recruiting efforts in first-year computing classes; retaining these students in their computing curriculum all through graduation; and better preparing high school students in math and computer science before they enter college. UCIC will partner with community leaders who will help guide the activities of the center and develop new programs to meet the needs of all involved.

The center will initially be funded through a two-year $700,000 grant from the Northeastern University Center for Inclusive Computing, renewable for a third year for a total of $1 million.