Fardina Alam Joins UMD to Teach Courses in New Data Science Minor

The recent Ph.D. graduate from George Mason University brings a deep background in data science, computational biology and machine learning
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Fardina Alam will join the University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science in August 2023 as a lecturer. Alam, who recently earned her Ph.D. in computer science from George Mason University, was honored with the department's outstanding dissertation award for her research on utilizing deep learning techniques to extract meaningful information from protein structure data.

We are excited to welcome Dr. Alam to our department,” said Department Chair Matthias Zwicker, who holds the Elizabeth Iribe Chair for Innovation and the Phillip H. and Catherine C. Horvitz Professorship. “With her deep background in data science, computational biology and machine learning, she will be an invaluable resource for our students. We can't wait for her to join us and teach our students.

UMD’s new data science minor—a collaboration between the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Computer Science—will help address the growing demand for skilled professionals who can harness the power of data to drive innovation and make informed decisions. 

“With the new Data Science minor in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Science, we are addressing the critical need to augment a broad range of undergraduate programs at UMD with data science skills required for an appropriately trained workforce in the data-driven economy," said Wojciech Czaja, director of the data science minor and a professor of mathematics. "Dr. Alam will play an essential role in this because she will bring her expertise to create a new course for the minor, 'Knowledge in Society: Science, Data, and Ethics.' Such courses will help us expose our students to understanding relevant ethical and social standards within the context of data analysis. As such, it will lay the proper foundation for our program." 

As the Department of Computer Science at the University of Maryland gears up to launch its data science minor, Zwicker enthusiastically acknowledges the program's potential impact. Underscoring the crucial role of data science in today's information-driven economy.

“Data science is about fundamental techniques to analyze and make sense of data by leveraging both mathematical and computational tools, which are indispensable in today's information economy,” said Zwicker.We are excited to launch the data science minor and enable our students to take leadership roles in this crucial field of study moving forward.”

As society increasingly relies on data-driven decision-making, professionals in data science will be in high demand across many industries. According to Alam, data science has remained a prominent field due to the vast amounts of data available in the real world, emphasizing the crucial need to capitalize on its substantial advantages to bolster various sectors. 

“Data science has been at the forefront for a long time because of the innumerable amounts of data that are out there in the real world, so it is essential to take advantage of its overwhelming benefits and use them in strengthening the business, health care, finance, IT and even government sectors,” Alam said. “When you have an increased volume of data, data science can help to make more informed decisions.”

Alam's commitment to inclusive education aligns with UMD’s broader mission of fostering a diverse community. She plans to ensure the new minor accessible to students from diverse backgrounds and empower them to make meaningful contributions in a data-driven world. 

“I want to motivate women and others underrepresented in the sciences and build networks to share my experiences and obstacles that I have faced and those that I am still facing so that those who come after me can be encouraged to press forward,” Alam said.

As Alam, who is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, takes on her new role, her dedication to teaching will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of data scientists who will tackle complex challenges and drive innovation in the digital era.

“I look forward to building new relationships with my new colleagues and being welcomed with open arms by Terp nation. My journey has just begun!”

—Story by Samuel Malede Zewdu, CS Communications 

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