Michael Liston, Bachelor's in Data Science ’17

The Data Science Unicorn

Stand out from the crowd with math, stats & computer science

Growing up in the Bay Area made Michael Liston '17 a big Giants/Warriors/49ers fan. He’d love to work for a professional sports team, streamlining their recruiting methods or projecting future outcomes for recruits. After finishing a Bachelor’s in Data Science at USF, Michael dove right into graduate school to prepare for a career in sports analytics. Now, he’s working on a Master’s of Business Analytics at St. Mary’s College of California.

Why did you choose to major in Data Science at USF?
I chose to attend USF specifically for the Data Science program, which was the only one in the nation when I applied. There are lot of good programs that help prepare you for analytics/data science jobs, but few put you on a path to become that “unicorn” who’s competent in statistics, mathematics, and computer science, and can apply them to a specific domain.

What were some of your best experiences in the program?
I really enjoyed going to the MS in Data Science seminars at USF’s downtown campus. The BS in Data Science and MS in Analytics programs are closely related, so the subject matter felt so relevant — how certain data science techniques are applied in the industry, data visualization, etc.

Also, it really can’t be overstated how approachable our Data Science professors are. I can recall many times walking into Prof. Nathaniel Stevens’ and Prof. James Wilson’s offices and being able to speak candidly about course material or future plans.

How did the Data Science program prepare you for grad school?
I chose a concentration in economic analytics, so business analytics seemed like a natural progression and an appropriate complement to what I studied at USF.

The program was rigorous and constantly stoked my curiosity for everything that encompasses data science — machine learning, advanced mathematics and statistics, computer science, etc. The applied math lab/senior project with Professor Stephen Devlin was particularly helpful because of the level of independence that allowed me to explore and work through some difficulties on my own, but also get input when I needed it.