By Lydia O’Neal
Senior Staff Writer
Quantitative Sciences (QSS), a new Emory College major available this fall, trains students to dissect and analyze big data – a highly-demanded skill set, according to professors.
“There is an increased understanding among students and teachers that statistics is a very needed skill in this day and age,” said Clifford Carrubba, the director of Emory’s Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods (QuanTM), which created the major last spring.
The major allows students to take in-depth quantitative science and math courses with an interdisciplinary focus. QSS majors will concentrate in one of a growing number of Curriculum Committee-approved subjects, including Informatics, History, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGS), Biology, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) and any major listed as a social science. The chosen concentration acts as a second major, giving QSS students statistical expertise in a subject where they can apply their experience in data analysis.
Carrubba created the program when he noticed a high demand for an introductory statistics course among a wide variety of social science majors.
With a QSS major, Carrubba said, “You’re going to be really competitive in whatever industry you enter into.”
Corporations, governments and other organizations “are in a place where they’re awash with data but with no one to work with it,” Carrubba said. “You could hire a statistics major, but they wouldn’t know how to apply it.”
So far, 15 students have officially declared their QSS majors, according to Carrubba. Though it’s possible for juniors to become QSS majors, Carrubba said, it’s relatively easier for freshmen and sophomores to complete the major, which requires a Calculus I credit, four core Quantitative Theory and Methods (QTM) courses, three QTM special topics courses, three QTM electives and five concentration electives.
Carrubba’s push for this specific structure for the QSS major followed an increase in the number of students enrolling in QTM 100: Introduction to Statistical Inference over the past three years. Carrubba collaborated with several social science departments to create this QTM introductory course so that those departments could scrap their individual required versions of the course. The result: three sections of QTM 100 per semester with up to 130 students per class, Carrubba said, clearly indicating a demand for quantitative sciences knowledge.
The QSS courses, however, go much deeper than QTM 100 and teach concepts such as regression analysis, probability and statistics, the scientific method and programming.
“I think there will be growing interest [in the major],”said Karen Hegtvedt, chair of the Sociology department, who worked with Carrubba to develop QTM 100. “If you think about what marketing is, it’s applied psychology and analysis of what people like and don’t like.”
She added that “having these skills will really give [students] an advantage in any industry, absent of a graduate degree.”
Harold Gouzoules, the Psychology department chair also helped develop QTM 100 with Carrubba and said there has long been a need for advanced statistics courses within the social sciences realm.
“I can hardly think of a [subject] area that will be more marketable,” Gouzoules said. He added, however, that students considering graduate school should boost their chances by pursuing a major in their concentration subject in addition to QSS.
“Specializing in a course means less courses in the specialization area,” Gouzoules said, referencing the five-elective requirement for the QSS concentration subject. “The strongest students would be those who double-major [in their concentration].”
When first developing the major, Carrubba and his team of social science department heads looked to Northwestern University (Illinois), which has a similar quantitative sciences program geared towards social sciences and does not require a QTM 100 equivalent.
“We are among the first, but not the first,” to create such a program, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Computer Science Vaidy Sunderam said. His department’s QSS concentration, informatics, was recently approved as a QSS concentration by the Curriculum Committee.
College sophomore and QSS major Kentucky Morrow began to consider pursuing the major after meeting with Carrubba, who “was pitching the idea to students” last spring, she said.
“It’s the future of most social sciences,” Morrow said, who is currently taking QTM 110: Introduction to Scientific Methods, the major’s first core course.
Morrow, who is concentrating in informatics and also pursuing a major in Mathematics as well as an unofficial third major in Economics “for fun,” added that he plans on applying to graduate school to study political science. The QSS major, he said, will make him a very competitive applicant.
“I think it’ll give me an advantage even if I don’t go to grad school, because most industries are becoming increasingly quantitative,” Morrow said.
Chris Oh, a College junior and QSS major with an economics concentration, is currently enrolled in QTM 110 and QTM 120: Math for Quantitative Science, the program’s first two core classes.
“Big data is becoming a big thing right now,” Oh said, when asked why he chose the major. He added, “I also really want a job when I graduate, and quantitative science is something pragmatic – it can be applied to a lot of things.”
– By Lydia O’Neal, Senior Staff Writer