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An Interview with Joseph Gilkey, Ph.D., Director of the Data Science Institute

The Data Science Institute at Saint Peter’s University is comprised of the fastest growing collection of academic programs in the Frank J. Guarini School of Business. The Institute recruits globally and attracts students from all across the world. The current programs in the Institute include the master’s programs in data science, business analytics, marketing science, cyber security, a M.B.A. in business analytics and a new Ph.D. program. Undergraduate programs are currently being developed.

“Saint Peter’s has become a leader in the cutting edge disciplines that are under the umbrella of the Data Science Institute and we will continue to strengthen our position in order to prepare students for the wide range of careers in these areas,” said Frederick Bonato, Ph.D., has been appointed to the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at Saint Peter’s University. “The Institute continues to grow in enrollment, but also in the high level of research that the faculty and students produce. Under the leadership of Joseph Gilkey, Ph.D., the Institute has earned a reputation that has reached well beyond the United States.”

Dr. Gilkey, director of the Data Science Institute, took some time to share the background on the growth of data science at Saint Peter’s and what the future holds.

Joseph Gilkey, Ph.D.

How has the data science program changed since its inception?

The data science program began in 2018 with two programs and 43 students. Today, the Data Science Institute encompasses eight programs, which are offered fully online, on-campus and in a hybrid fashion. There are currently 462 students in the Institute.

Initially, the data science program was very theoretical in nature, but we have shifted the focus to a practical model to ensure that students are able to obtain jobs once they graduate.

How did the Data Science Institute make the shift to a practical model?

We utilized natural language processing and looked at 1,000 data science jobs on LinkedIn and 1,000 data science jobs on Indeed and rated all of the skill sets required for each position. This information was used to guide the platforms, programs and learning outcomes for each course in the Institute. We have been reviewing job descriptions every six months to ensure we are keeping the programs up-to-date.

One example of a change we made is in the language we use to teach. The two most popular languages for data science are R and Python. We used to teach only R, but we have now moved to teaching Python because 95 percent of the jobs we looked at had requirements for knowledge of Python.

Who is teaching in the Data Science Institute?

The program began with two or three adjunct professors, but today there are more than 55 adjunct professors teaching more than 90 courses this spring. Our adjunct professors are industry professionals who bring in unique expertise to the Institute and can share real world examples from their careers.

Who are the students enrolled in the Data Science Institute?

One of the reasons why we believe we have seen such growth in the Data Science Institute is because jobs in the field are in-demand and the starting salaries for the positions are in the $80,000 to $120,000 range. While we do have a diverse student population, many are international students.

How do the international students in the Data Science Institute acclimate to Saint Peter’s?

Many of the international students in the Data Science Institute are coming to us from more than 5,000 miles away so we do our best to make them feel like there is a home here for them. Many of the students like Saint Peter’s because of the great diversity both at the University and in Jersey City as they can find the foods they love and make friends. In fact, many of our students will encourage an international friend to join them in their studies because of how comfortable they are here.

Does the Data Science Institute have any industry partners?

The Saint Peter’s Data Science Institute has a number of industry partners such as IBM, the South Florida Hospital System, Digitas and more. Four classes are currently taught in partnership with IBM and students enrolled in those courses have the opportunity to earn badges in Enterprise Design Thinking, Watson AI, Blockchain and Internet of Things. The partnership with South Florida Hospital system has supported Hackathons at the University and is a great resource for students interested in the healthcare data field. Recently students worked with Digitas on problem statements and ten of them were offered internships.

What is something you are proud of when it comes to the data science students?

I am proud of the successful research projects the Data Science Institute has produced. Each semester we have five to seven graduate assistants working on research projects as well as students enrolled in our capstone courses. In the past 18 months we have produced and published 20 research papers. Two of those papers have won the Best Paper Award from organizations such as the Academy of Research Business. 

Learn more about the Data Science Institute on the University’s website.