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Q & A with Chaoyi Jiao, first recipient of the MIDAS Graduate Certificate in Data Science

The MIDAS Graduate Certificate in Data Science was established in 2015 to offer students a way to enhance their skills and prepare for a workforce that values multidisciplinary knowledge, broad analytical skills, and agile technological abilities. Nearly 50 students have enrolled in the program, which requires 9 credits of courses and 3 credits of experiential training, and involves mentorship opportunities with MIDAS-affiliated faculty members.

Chaoyi Jiao, who recently received his Ph.D from the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering and is now a post-doc there, was the first recipient of the MIDAS Graduate Certificate in Data Science. He recently answered a few questions about the program.

What are your research interests, and how does “data science,” broadly speaking, pertain to them?
My research primarily focuses on the Arctic climate change and climate modeling. Observation shows that the Arctic is warming at a much more rapid pace compared to the middle latitudes and tropics. Thus further warming of the climate system may pose an increasing threat to the climate and ecosystem in the Arctic. I hope to gain better understanding of the Arctic climate change and improve the numerical representation of Arctic climate in the climate models. As the data generated by the current generation of climate models and observational networks are growing rapidly, more sophisticated data analyses skills become more and more important for this research area.

Why did you decide to pursue the Graduate Certificate in Data Science?
As I started to conduct my PhD research project, I realized that statistics and data analysis skills are quite important. So I started to take some statistics classes on my second year. Later I learnt that there is a Data Science certificate program. I was very interested in the learning opportunities and academic experience proposed by this program. And I also think it could greatly benefit my career. So I decided to apply.

How hard or easy was it to meet the academic requirements?
Some classes are quite challenging when I started. But generally speaking, I think the academic requirement of this certificate is quite reasonable.

Were you required to take courses that you wouldn’t otherwise have taken? If so, how did they help you broaden your view of data science?
I would say probably not. I was planning to take some courses relate to statistics and machine learning topics before this certificate becomes available. But I think if I enrolled the data science program at a earlier time, I may take one or two extra classes. My experience tells that taking classes outside one’s own research field often helps to think with a broader perspective.

Why should other U-M students pursue this certificate?
I think as many research fields are becoming more and more data driven, mastering the cutting edge data analysis skills can greatly benefit one’s career. I would say if you believe that your research field is data driven and you hope to learn more advanced data science related topics, you definitely should consider this certificate. Moreover, the data science certificate also provides a great opportunities for networking with other students in this program.

For more information on the program, visit http://midas.umich.edu/certificate/ or contact midas-contact@umich.edu.