TU/e to start Data Science Center

In December TU/e will launch the Data Science Center Eindhoven (DSC/e). The new research institute, at which several TU/e departments and business will be collaborating, will be coordinated by prof.dr.ir. Wil van der Aalst. If it’s up to the initiators of the project, TU/e will have a Data Science bachelor and master’s program in the near future.

They say it’s ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century’: data scientist. Professor Van der Aalst (Process Mining and Business Process Management at the Department of Mathematics & Computer Sciences) smiles. He says: “Data is ever-growing. Ninety percent of the data that’s available worldwide was produced over the past two years.”

According to Van der Aalst it’s very important for engineers to be able to handle “that giant bucket of data. They have to learn how to register, analyze, and interpret it, but most of all they have to learn how to convert raw data into value. All areas of expertise are experiencing a shift from modeling -where reality is often described subjectively- to designs based on hard facts. So data is becoming more and more important in research everywhere as well”.

One of the questions the new expertise wants to answer is how to convert the ever-increasing chunk of data into “real value”. Van der Aalst: “How can we use all that information to improve processes and machines, increase their efficiency, and prevent malfunctions?” But there’s a more social aspect to it, as well. “How can we use information to influence unwanted behavior? Is there a way to give people feedback on their lifestyle, for example?”

The professor expects data science to rise as an independent field of study, much like computer science was upgraded from a specialization within Mathematics to a separate program. Although there’s a difference: “Traditionally, mathematics and computer science don’t see eye to eye, while data science brings parties together. Computer science, electrical engineering, industrial design, social sciences: they all have to deal with the same reality, which is linked by data science.”
DSC/e aims at establishing an even more express connection between the various areas of expertise. Apart from that, the institute is supposed to put TU/e on the map as a notable data science player.

Van der Aalst hopes the institute will lead to a new bachelor and master’s program within the next ten years. “And if data science lives up to our expectations, that would be absolutely justified.”

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