Innovator: Pat McDonald

Director of Data Science Pat McDonald tells Biz(941) about New College of Florida's first Masters program.

By Chelsey Lucas February 3, 2015

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THIS FALL WILL MARK NEW COLLEGE OF FLORIDA’S first master’s degree program in the hot new field of data science, which collects and analyzes the explosion of information on just about anything that can be measured. In fact, New College will be the only liberal arts institution in the nation to offer the degree.

Spearheaded by director of data science Patrick McDonald, an M.I.T.-educated mathematician and head of mathematics at New College, the Master of Data Science program anticipates eight to 10 students in its first year and 15 students per year thereafter. The program will develop students’ ability to analyze big data.

“When I talk about big data I mean a collection of unstructured data that has to be hosted on more than one machine,” McDonald says. He cites MRI imaging, health informatics, finance and risk analysis as examples of big data sources. “There’s an enormous need for people with these skills,” he says.

The data science faculty worked with Google and Amazon, and with health informatics and risk analysis companies to tailor the curriculum to meet their needs. Near the end of the program, students will work directly with corporate partners to develop products that answer a question or need posed by the company.

McDonald foresees significant spinoffs of data science companies emerging here as a result of this new program. “This program will deepen our reputation and put New College and Sarasota on the map as the first program of its kind in Florida,” he says. ■ By Chelsey Lucas

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