Rebecca Lantner

Rebecca Lantner

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Major: IIM – “Appled Math and Data Science" (minor in Business)

What is your IIM about? - My IIM combines courses in math, statistics, computer science, and other departments to get to the heart of a relatively new field of study: data science. There is an exorbitant amount of data in the world today- from marketing to science to government, we're constantly tracking, collecting, and accumulating information in mass volume. My major seeks to answer the following questions: how can we make sense of data? and how can data help us make sense of our world?

When & how did you begin the IIM process? - I first heard about the IIM during the fall of my sophomore year. By that point, I had considered just about every major at Brandeis, and come to the realization that what I really wanted to study was missing: statistics. I had taken statistics classes in high school and during my freshman year at Brandeis, and I loved how the subject combined the precision and logic of mathematics with the interpretive nature of English, two seemingly disparate subjects that I enjoyed. Through discussions with professors and academic advisors, I learned that statistics alone was too narrow a topic for an IIM, but if I broadened my field to incorporate mathematics and computer science, I could create an interdisciplinary major. Once I began research, I was surprised to find a slew of undergraduate institutions that offered applied math and data science programs. From there, I scoured Brandeis' course listings to piece together a similar curriculum. With the support of faculty mentors and the IIM coordinator, my major was born!

How are you pursuing the IIM outside of the classroom? - The courses I'm taking for my IIM provide me with the technical skills I need to manipulate and analyze data, such as statistical methods and computer programming techniques. But to me, the most interesting part of grappling with data is the human piece: interpreting what the data is telling us, conveying its message, and using this insight to inform future decisions that better our world. 

Outside of the classroom, I've tried to gain some hands-on experience with this "human side" of data. I spent the summer after my sophomore year working as a data intern for Popular Science magazine, where I helped to render trends creatively through data visualization. I enjoy creating data graphics, as they not only serve as a medium for making complex data accessible, but they also combine my major with my passion for design. I continue to pursue data design by creating infographics for The Justice, Brandeis' independent study newspaper, of which I was layout editor my sophomore and junior years. I also work part-time as a data analyst for Brandeis International Business School. 

What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing an IIM?- Don't be afraid to forge your own path. Creating your own major takes a lot of hard work, but if you are driven and passionate about your field of study, it is a very rewarding experience. The IIM gives you the unique opportunity to craft your own education- and you learn a ton about yourself in the process.