Learn more about Data Science and Artificial Intelligence with Director Sean Connin
Dr. Sean Connin is a Teaching Professor and the Director for Data Science Graduate Programs in the Department of Computer Science at the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. After being recruited, Dr. Connin joined the DU team in June of 2022.
“My position is twofold,” Dr. Connin said. “I serve as the director for the Data Science graduate programs at DU, which include both an on-campus program and an online program. These two programs share the same curriculum, but we offer two versions. I also serve as a teaching professor, so I teach, as well as providing leadership for the program as a whole.” With the program being offered both in person and virtually, there is a flexible and inclusive opportunity to learn more about data science in a way that suits the student.
Dr. Connin describes data science as a “multidisciplinary field, a combination of mathematics, computer sciences, and computation.” As a field, it’s expanded over the years as technology has advanced and peoples’ understanding of the capabilities of data analytics has evolved.
“There are so many things going on in terms of applied data science, as well as in research. Right now, we're all reading in the news on a day-to-day basis about generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), the use of machine learning algorithms to create text and images, sounds and video from scratch,” said Dr. Connin.
“It also poses a lot of interesting opportunities, but gives us pause to really think about where we're heading, and what are some of the concerns. There are things we need to be concerned about along the way, in terms of bias and other concerns that come up when we think about AI.”
As well as AI, there’s an increasing interest in data governance, which is the notion of setting standards for gathering, storing, processing, and disposing of data. “We are going to necessarily enter a stage in which data availability and regulation are going to meet and have a conversation.”
At DU, the data science program offers a variety of opportunities for the students, as well as the faculty to engage in current research in this expansive field. “[For students] our curriculum emphasizes project-based work, you know, so a lot of the courses that we offer, provide students an opportunity to develop their own projects from scratch, start to finish in the areas in which they are most interested in,” explained Dr. Connin.
With data science being so varied, faculty members work across a multitude of fields.
“You will find faculty who are doing research in components of what we call data science, and you’ll find them in math, you'll probably find them in business. My own interests range from text analysis and natural language processing, and working on algorithms and questions that involve topic modeling and structural topic modeling. And these are a means by which to study and think about how we can provide services to students based on essays, self reflections, and their writing.”
The definition of a data scientist has evolved along with the field, and it now allows more opportunities for students than ever before. Dr. Connin has been in data analytics for years, and has seen first-hand how the field has evolved and how the role has expanded.
“The idea of a data scientist, in terms of the fields they go into, is really expanding at the moment. It includes everything from your traditional statistician, to your database administrator, all the way up to, now, data visualization specialists, machine learning engineers, data scientists, proper data engineers, who are putting together the frameworks for entire enterprises. In terms of opportunity, we're seeing more and more specialized roles develop as the field expands. This field of study has a very expansive set of possible career track,” said Dr. Connin.
With that expansion, it opens up the career field for students after they graduate from the program. “There are people making money through data as a service. With this shift toward open data, we've never had more data to work with. Between the power we have in our cell phones, our computers, and the accessibility we have to all of this information, it has opened up this idea of data science, both formally and informally to anybody that wants to participate.”