Making sense of a data-driven world is the aim of a new bootcamp-style program for Western faculty and staff.
“Data science without tears” provides simple, practical knowledge about the basics of data science and machine learning, and is part of ongoing efforts to help build data expertise cross campus.
“The goal is to equip our faculty and staff to employ the tools of data science in their own areas of endeavour through training, including data bootcamps,” explained Mark Daley, special advisor to the president on data strategy.
The program is part of Western’s Data Strategy which includes supporting faculty and staff development aimed at enriching their data science knowledge, Daley said.
The free, six-week program – launched in the fall of 2020 – includes hands-on exercises in Python notebooks, a programming language used as a tool for data science work. It’s designed to be accessible and unintimidating, even for those new to data science.
Participants can expect to gain an understanding of how to: scale their research using simple data science tools and techniques; automate data collection and processing; summarize and visualize research; and understand common machine-learning models and their applications to research.
For Suzanne Witt, the course was a way to help in her role as neuro-imaging analyst for BrainsCAN. And one of the things she liked about the program was the availability of supplemental resources – articles, videos, recorded lectures – and thought experiments that allowed participants to think about various machine-learning techniques to solve a problem.
“It really helped cement my knowledge of when I should use these techniques, or when it’s just being used because it’s a cool new tool and not because it’s the best way of answering [a problem],” Witt said.
As a neuro-imaging analyst, 90 per cent of Witt’s job requires troubleshooting for labs, trainees, students and principal investigators at BrainsCAN – like an IT helpdesk but for functional neuro-imaging.
Witt said the data science bootcamp is a good program, particularly for those with no prior knowledge of data science and machine learning.
“It’s gets you up to speed with things you need to take into consideration such as where are you getting your data; how are you organizing your data; and some common techniques you can apply to your data,” she said.
The articles and lectures shared in the program also provided participants with some real-world applications of data science and machine learning, she added.
Participants who complete the data science bootcamp will earn a Western certificate in introductory data science and machine learning.
Registration for the fall program, which begins Sept. 20, is currently underway.