Evolving students into information experts

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Jacquie Kuru was once certain of her calling to become a medical examiner — until the COVID-19 pandemic, and its disruptive restrictions, opened her eyes. “There were many intricacies and other characteristics of practice that simply could not be conveyed on a 2D display,” she explains.

“Frustrated, I took a break from medicine and began exploring information science and technology courses. I was certain those in this field would be able to convey information effectively through new formats. I ended up taking a course called ‘Social Media and Ourselves,’ and the rest was history.”

The University of Arizona — which currently ranks among the world’s top 100 colleges and universities — was more than happy to accommodate Kuru’s new interests. Delivered by the School of Information, its BS Information Science was designed to launch lucrative careers at the forefront of innovation and development. The process encompasses the application of computational methods, information systems and machine learning to ensure students master the art of providing solutions for cutting-edge, real-world problems.

Two tracks are available to those keen on a more specialized journey to fully comprehending the intersections between information, people, and technology: Data Science as well as Interactive and Immersive Technologies.

Kuru opted for the Data Science track, which entails building beyond core classes to develop more advanced skills in data science and understanding the crucial ways the subject can be leveraged in the real world. This track includes applied classes such as Data Mining, Principles and Practices of Data Science; uses for Big Data, such as Data Engineering and Database Development; concepts of Applied Cyberinfrastructure; as well as applications to Machine Learning and Algorithm Development.

 University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is a top 50 research institution for its studies conducted on computer and information sciences. Source: University of Arizona

One class that particularly stood out to Kuru was Professor Richard Maxwell Thompson’s Programming for Informatics Apps. “The subject matter was really interesting and Professor Thompson does a great job teaching us the material in fun, unique ways,” she says. “He does a great job of incorporating experiential learning into all the courses I have taken with him. In all his classes, we have to process a data set of our own findings with our own defined informational goal.”

Such student-teacher connection sets the School of Information apart.  “The School of information is a distinct place where students can work alongside faculty for rewarding research and learning experiences,” says School Director Catherine Brooks.

In a matter of days, Kuru will be applying knowledge in the industry through an internship with Infineon — a German semiconductor manufacturer. Her role will focus on creating social media content, gathering statistics, and analysing trends.

Once she graduates, she hopes to advance her knowledge with a postgraduate degree in data science, specifically to continue exploring the methodologies in studying information and optimizing her findings. As a professional, Kuru sees herself working with data in the context of social media — be it through sentiment analysis, algorithm modelling, or algorithm bias assessment.

“I feel very strongly about content creation and creator rights on massive platforms like YouTube,” she explains. “There are many problems with large media platforms, especially with automated copyright strikes, channel deletion, and so forth. If possible, I would like to help combat these challenges. With the education I have received so far, I feel confident that, regardless of the career position I end up in, I would be able to perform and adapt well.”

All students at the School of Information are welcome to engage in world-class research. Source: University of Arizona

Such confidence is typical of students who choose to pursue a BS in Information Science —- with a specialisation in data science — at the School of Information. However, both tracks lead to various opportunities to engage and intern with valuable contacts in local and national companies — think Hydrant, Octavia Digital Media, and the Enterprise Technology division of State Farm.

With an envied qualification in hand, Kuru and her peers will surely enter the world of work ready to immediately add value. In fact, many graduates have already assumed rewarding roles like data analyst, data scientist, data engineer, computer systems analyst, information security manager, information architect, internet applications programmer, web designer and administrator, user experience (UX) designer, and system developer at some of the world’s most innovative organisations.

World-changers and top-tier academics are made at the University of Arizona as well. All School of Information students are welcome to work alongside expert faculty members on their quest to explore all aspects of the information sciences across disciplinary boundaries.

Currently, the School conducts research in artificial intelligence, data management and curation, computer vision, computer-mediated communication and learning, natural language processing, social networking, human-computer interfaces, dark networks, computational art and music creation, library sciences, and entertainment technologies.

Their efforts are a reflection of the University of Arizona’s overall commitment to research and development expenditures — which currently ranks in the top 4% of all US universities, according to fiscal year 2020 data from the National Science Foundation.

If you’re keen on analysing and extending the digital world at an institution that exudes excellence, click here to apply to the University of Arizona today.

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