TURNING DATA INTO KNOWLEDGE

The accelerating advances in information technology have made it increasingly feasible to collect and store tremendous amounts of data. For example, one regional supermarket chain collects two gigabytes of data each day on customer purchases through the use of its store discount card. At this point, the question for the supermarket chain is how knowledge can be extracted from all these data and used to operate their business more efficiently and effectively.

The field of statistics has always been concerned with summarizing information in ways that improve our understanding and enable us to make better decisions. Modern statisticians use software tools for organizing and analyzing data that enable them to perform in a matter of seconds calculations that would have taken days to complete a generation ago.

New data collection capabilities have created a new area of research: knowledge discovery and data mining. Manufacturing companies want to harness streams of sales information to manage their inventories better. Financial service companies want to use more detailed transaction data on consumer spending in deciding whether to extend credit to current and prospective customers. Market research firms want to assemble demographic and geographic data into information systems that will allow better targeting of consumer preferences in advertising campaigns and in siting new businesses. Computer scientists and statisticians are now working together to solve problems and create products in this developing industry.

Statistics majors gain experience with popular software packages that are used to perform statistical analyses of data. Those students who pursue an Emphasis in Statistical Computing take additional courses in computer science or information and decision systems to expand their skills in organizing and managing data-skills that will be valuable in future professional life.