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Complex Systems Graduate Certificate Helps Students Learn the Art and Science of Data 

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As an engineering manager at Google’s Open Source Programs Office in Seattle, Amanda Casari thrives on leading a team, working with the research community, and strengthening open-source communities’ ability to make data-informed decisions.

Casari, who graduated from UVM in 2011 with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, was one of the first students to complete the UVM Graduate Certificate in Complex System and Data Science in 2011.

The UVM certificate is now an online, 15-credit program that gives students broad training in computation and theoretical techniques for describing and understanding complex natural and sociotechnical systems. It also helps students understand how to model, design, manage, and control such systems.

At Google, Casari is responsible for the engineering support and research partnership with Project OCEAN (Open Source Complex Ecosystems and Networks) with UVM.

The Google Open Source Programs Office, where Casari works, is a division of Google that manages Google’s use and release of open-source software and promotes open-source programming. Google Open Source recently funded a $1 million unrestricted gift to the Vermont Complex Systems Center within UVM to support open-source systems research.

“As a project and team lead, I do a bit of everything: give feedback on program direction to UVM, set engineering team annual plans and quarterly goals for the team at Google, and meet with members of the open-source ecosystems that we are studying,” Casari says.

Problem-Solving Frameworks Shaped by UVM

Casari was first introduced to UVM more than a decade ago as a  graduate student. The UVM Graduate Certificate in Complex Systems and Data Science was brand new when she was a UVM master’s student, and the certificate’s curriculum matched her research interests.

Her advisor during her graduate school study, UVM Associate Professor Paul Hines of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, was a faculty member of the Complex Systems Center. Casari credits both the Center’s faculty and the flexibility of the graduate program within the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences for setting her up to complete both her degree and the certificate at the same time.

After completing her studies at UVM, she worked as a data scientist, among other roles, and eventually started her career at Google in 2019.

“There were data scientists before there were data science certificate programs or degrees specifically designed for the field. I was able to use my experience from research and classes, along with continued time spent evaluating new research and completing self-driven learning to work as a data scientist at my second job after graduation,” she says. “I’ve since shifted my roles in engineering teams, but much of my problem-solving frameworks are still shaped by complexity science and data science.”

UVM’s Complex Systems Graduate Certificate

Students in the UVM Complex Systems and Data Science graduate certificate program are required to have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrated proficiency in calculus, probability and statistics, and computer programming.

Students in the program learn: 

  • Methods of data acquisition, storage, manipulation, and curation
  • Visualization techniques, with a potential for building high-quality web-based applications
  • Uncovering complex patterns and correlations in systems through data-fueled machine learning and genetic programming
  • Powerful ways of identifying and extracting explanatory, mechanistic stories underlying complex systems—not just how to use black-box techniques

Casari says she uses the skills she learned from UVM on a daily basis, including how to read, analyze, and critique research from multiple disciplines, how to speak across audiences, and how to adjust specificity based on the audience’s level of expertise and area of study.

“It was a great reminder that I’m not expected to be an expert in all things,” Casari adds. “It’s more efficient to ask for help after a reasonable amount of time than to flail stubbornly.”

Casari, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Control Systems Engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy, says she highly recommends the UVM Graduate Certificate in Complex Systems and Data Science.

“For folks who are looking to be fully supported in a cross-disciplinary methodology, for mentors who are just as passionate about asking questions about systems that shape the world around us, and for opportunities to work on multi-scale problems, this is your opportunity,” she says.

The spring application deadline for the UVM Graduate Certificate in Complex Systems and Data Science is Nov. 1, 2020.

Learn more about the UVM Graduate Certificate in Complex Systems and Data Science