The Disruptive Discipline of Data Science Blog


Data Science at UC Berkeley

Berkeley campanile with San Francisco city scape in the background

At the beginning of each semester, UC Berkeley undergraduates squeeze into Wheeler Hall and open their laptops. More than 1,300 other Berkeley undergraduates had filtered into one of Cal’s largest lecture halls last Spring for the first class of “Foundations of Data Science,” affectionately known on campus as Data 8.

The Data Science discipline is brand new at UC Berkeley. It is one of the first data science undergraduate programs in the country, led by some of the most prominent computer science and statistics professors of our time. From its inauguration in 2015 with a class size of 100 (read: very small for the very large UC Berkeley), it has grown to an astounding 1,300 in Fall 2018. The major was offered for the first time in 2017 and has quickly become one of the most in-demand majors on campus.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the explosion of data in the past few years: almost 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day from online sources. Visualizing and interpreting this data is therefore incredibly valuable. Companies are heavily investing in data science insights and hiring within the data space has grown exponentially.

Students from all majors–statistics, psychology, environmental science, sociology, and many others–are encouraged to enroll in this extremely popular course. All three of Data 8’s professors have been awarded the lauded Distinguished Teaching Award, and students work on computing platforms that had been coded by their Cal predecessors. So what is data science, and why are students, universities, and companies so excited about it?

What is Data Science?

UC Berkeley defines data science as the collection, organization, and communication of insights through computer science and statistics. Data scientists must be able to understand what story the data is telling them and communicate their findings to key stakeholders in order to drive strategic decisions. The robust discipline is in high demand- the cleaning, analyzing, and interpreting involved in data science is applicable across industries.

What are applications of Data Science?

Data science might be most commonly associated with Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc., as they are the vanguard of data analysis and computer science. But data analytics extend beyond programming: institutions like UC Berkeley are actively encouraging those with social science and humanities backgrounds to take advantage of data science. For example, food processes, healthcare, oil, and even suicide prevention are expected to be revolutionized by data science.

Why Data Science at UC Berkeley?

LinkedIn’s list of top 50 companies was recently released, cataloguing the companies with the highest demand, greatest employee satisfaction, and most generated interest in the company. A large percentage of these companies are situated in the Bay Area. Innovation is in the air, and UC Berkeley Executive Education continues this ethos.

What next?

Interested in learning more about data science and its applications? Check out our Data Science for Leaders program led by Lucas Davis and Jonathan Kolstad. This dynamic learning experience blends theory, case studies, and hands-on practice to harness business analytic insights through data science. If you’re a senior executive looking to make more informed business decisions and leverage innovative strategies, contact us or visit our website to learn more about Data Science for Leaders.


Written by:
Corinne McGinley, Berkeley Executive Education Sales & Marketing Intern, UC Berkeley Undergraduate Student

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