J60.1 Atmospheric Sciences + Data Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 8:45 AM
156A (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Anna E. Nesbitt, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL; and S. W. Nesbitt, B. F. Jewett, R. L. Sriver, S. Lasher-Trapp, R. J. Trapp, and R. M. Rauber

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has offered a 300-level course called Computing and Data Analysis since 2007. In 2017, this course was redesigned and a preparatory 200-level course called Introduction to Computational Geosciences was added in response to observed deficits in the computational knowledge and skill sets of sophomore and junior level students engaged in undergraduate research, as well as to better serve an increasing campus-wide demand for real world applications of data analytics and machine learning. It was initially thought that porting the introductory material to a new 200-level course would create space to cover more advanced concepts in the 300-level course. Due to mixed student outcomes and in an effort to link up with a campus-wide data sciences initiative, we have re-envisioned our 200-level course as Weather and Climate Data Science Discovery. This new “connector course” builds upon an introductory statistics course called Data Science Discovery, a python-based introduction to applied statistics and data science modeled after UC Berkeley’s wildly successful Foundations of Data Science that has seen enrollments spike as high as 1300 students. We estimate that our newly developed connector course will reach over 60 students per year, and we anticipate that the discovery series will function as a recruitment pipeline for our major. The Department is also in the midst of responding to a University-wide initiative to pair traditional majors with a data science focused curriculum. We are exploring the feasibility of an "Atmospheric Sciences + Data Science" degree to meet student and employment sector demands. Such a degree track will require the establishment of additional data science focused courses at the undergraduate and introductory graduate levels. In this presentation, we will discuss our current and projected data science courses, our proposal for an "Atmospheric Sciences + Data Science" degree, student interest and outcomes pertaining to our currently offered data science courses, available open source software and other resources for course development, as well as potential pitfalls and lessons learned in developing cutting-edge curricula.
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