Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Best Schools for Data Science in the US

4 minute read

What is Data Science?

Data Science is a dynamic and crucial field within the realm of computer science. It involves extracting meaningful insights and knowledge from vast sets of data. A data scientist uses a combination of statistical methods, programming, and domain knowledge to analyze complex data sets and uncover patterns, trends, and valuable information. Essentially, they transform raw data into actionable insights that can guide decision-making processes in various industries. With the increasing importance of big data in today's world, the demand for skilled data scientists continues to rise, making it a compelling field for those passionate about unraveling the stories hidden within data.

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Why Is Data Science Important

Data science is the backbone of informed decision-making. From predicting consumer behavior to optimizing supply chains, applied data science empowers organizations to leverage their data for strategic advantage. Its importance extends across various domains:

1. Business and Industry: Companies use data science to analyze market trends, optimize operations, and personalize customer experiences. For example, Amazon employs data science algorithms to recommend products based on user preferences, enhancing the shopping experience.

2. Healthcare: In the healthcare sector, data science plays a crucial role in disease prediction, personalized medicine, and improving patient outcomes. Analyzing big data enables researchers to identify patterns and develop targeted interventions.

3. Finance: Financial institutions utilize data science for risk assessment, fraud detection, and algorithmic trading. Predictive models and applied statistics help in anticipating market trends and making informed investment decisions.

4. Technology and Innovation: Data science fuels technological advancements, from natural language processing in virtual assistants to deep learning algorithms and information systems that power autonomous vehicles. It is at the heart of innovation in the tech industry.

Top Schools in Data Science

Several institutions in the United States stand out for having some of the best data science programs both nationally and globally. These institutions not only provide rigorous academic training that can lead to a data science degree but also host renowned research groups that contribute significantly to the field's advancement.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $55,878

More specifically, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is a hub of cutting-edge research in data science. MIT is renowned for its expansive data science and artificial intelligence research across core focus areas like machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, and information technology. Their pioneering work spans developing novel machine learning algorithms, advancing neural network architectures, and creating AI systems that interact intelligently with the physical world. 

MIT also stands at the forefront of research into AI safety and ethics to ensure responsible innovation. Through entities like the Quest for Intelligence and MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, researchers explore safeguards for emerging machine learning systems. This multidimensional approach allows students exposure to the full stack of modern AI research with relevance spanning many industries. The combination of advanced techniques powered by real-world use cases gives MIT exceptional strength as a hub for advancing artificial intelligence.

Polygence research program mentors:
Madison R: I am trained as a Mechanical Engineer and specialize in design and product development. After exploring different areas, including assistive technology design, furniture design, and design to fit the human body, I learned that design can also be used to alleviate poverty in developing countries. Designing products and services to improve access to basic needs like clean water, food, and healthcare for struggling people in developing countries quickly became my passion.

In the Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. program at MIT, my current research is focused on developing technology to improve healthcare in low-resource world regions. I am also working on a healthcare startup. When I am not busy with school or working on my research, I play volleyball and paint. I also love reading books about psychology and economics. During breaks from grad school, I travel as much as I can, and I have had the privilege to see five continents.

Stanford University

Location: Palo Alto, California
Tuition: $56,169

The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) is renowned for its work in machine learning, computer vision, and data mining. Faculty members and students at SAIL are actively involved in pushing the boundaries of data science research.

Polygence research program mentors:
Nick R:  I have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree from Stanford University in Management Science and Engineering. I currently work as an Aerospace System Engineer at Georgia Tech Research Institute in the Applied System Laboratory. My academic passions started around the 3D design of physical products and finding innovative ways to manufacture them. It then evolved to innovative business models and entrepreneurship. Currently, my research interests lie in aerospace engineering. I work on innovative aircraft platforms and the architectures and protocols that enable them.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, California
Tuition: $14,226 in-state, $43,900 out of state

Berkeley's RISELab (Real-Time Intelligent Secure Execution Lab) focuses on real-time data processing, machine learning, and security. Their research has practical applications in areas such as autonomous systems and healthcare. One of my favorite research articles came out of the RISELab, and is titled “How AI Fails Us”. If you’re interested, check it out here.

Polygence research program mentors:

Meina P: I received my BS and MEng in Bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley. I'm currently doing project management at a Biotech company in the Bay Area. My career interests include technology, business strategy consulting, Medtech, and entrepreneurship. My prior research focused on microfluidic devices, medical devices, and drug delivery systems. Outside of academics, I volunteer to mentor high school and bioengineering undergraduate students and teach Korean to elementary school students. I enjoy reading comic books, playing badminton, and hiking.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $55,587

The Data Science Initiative at Harvard fosters interdisciplinary research in data science. Collaborations between researchers from various specialties such as business intelligence, information science, software engineering, and analytics contribute to innovative solutions for complex challenges.

Polygence research program mentors:
Sam: My research revolves around the intersection of physics and machine learning (ML), specifically examining how these fields can mutually inform and support each other. Currently, I'm involved in the development of physical systems capable of autonomous learning, excluding reliance on computers. I also delve into the study of less high-profile complex systems, such as sand behavior. Beyond my academic pursuits, I engage in improvisational theater, having dedicated over a decade to teaching, directing, and performing. Additionally, I maintain a consistent running routine, harbor a perpetual desire for basketball, and am always open to exploring new sports—recently, I've ventured into badminton, squash, and disc golf.

Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Tuition: $58,924

Carnegie Mellon's Machine Learning Department has applications in areas like healthcare, robotics, and natural language processing. One of my Polygence students, Eesha P, wrapped up a robotics project under my guidance and has since pursued studies in Mechanical Engineering and Robotics at CMU. Her research focus intersects programming and data science topics as well. I talk more about Eesha’s project in my other article titled, “Having Fun With Robots and Drones: A Brief List of Projects Undertaken by My Students”

Lesser known good schools for data science

While the big-name schools often hog the spotlight, there are indeed many lesser-known institutions that offer excellent programs in data science. While these schools may not have the same name recognition as some of the larger institutions, they often provide rigorous and specialized programs. It's always a good idea to explore beyond the usual suspects to find a data science program that aligns with your specific interests and career goals.

Here are a few lesser-known schools that are also worth considering for pursuing Data Science in the US:

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
Tuition: $52,756

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
Tuition: $14,126 in-state, $28,476 out of state

University of San Francisco
Tuition: $53,472

University of Utah
Tuition: $8,893 in-state, $28,345 out of state

Bentley University
Tuition: $54,910 

Fordham University
Tuition: $56,161

Stevens Institute of Technology
Tuition: $56,920

Clarkson University
Tuition: $54,370

University of Denver
Tuition: $54,819 

How Can High School Students Get Started with Data Science?

The journey into data science can begin early for motivated high school students. Here are some steps to get started:

1. Build a Strong Foundation in Math and Statistics

Data science heavily relies on mathematical concepts. Strengthening your foundation in areas like algebra, calculus, and statistics will give you a solid starting point.

2. Learn Programming Languages

Python and R are widely used in the field of data science. Familiarize yourself with these languages and their libraries, such as NumPy, pandas, and scikit-learn for Python.

3. Take Online Courses and Certifications

Platforms like Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy offer introductory data science courses. An online program can usually cover essential concepts and tools used in the field.

4. Participate in Competitions

Platforms like Kaggle host data science competitions that provide real-world datasets and challenges. Participating in these competitions allows you to apply your skills and learn from the broader data science community.

5. Build a Portfolio

Showcase your projects and achievements in a portfolio. This could include data analysis projects, machine learning models, or any other relevant work. A strong portfolio can make a significant impact when applying to data science programs.

6. Seek Mentorship and Guidance

Connect with professionals or academics in the field of data science. Mentorship can provide valuable insights, guidance, and networking opportunities.

Polygence Scholars Are Also Passionate About

Explore your interests

By immersing yourself in a data science project, you gain insights into the day-to-day challenges and triumphs of a data scientist. This firsthand experience helps you assess your interest and aptitude for working on data structures and programming languages and using data analytics to derive meaningful conclusions. Additionally, collaborating with peers or mentors during the project provides a glimpse into the collaborative nature of data science, offering a taste of the teamwork and communication skills required in the field. Ultimately, a summer project in data science serves as a valuable litmus test, allowing you to gauge your passion for the subject, your ability to navigate its complexities, and your enthusiasm for tackling real-world problems through the lens of data.