Sheri Loftin

Location: Greenbelt, Maryland

Occupation: Senior data technician at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Education: B.S. in mathematics from University of Houston

Tell us a bit about yourself.

As a data technician at NASA, I am involved with several missions: Juno, MAVEN and Cassini. My bachelor’s degree is in mathematics, and I have an extensive background in IT and research.

What initially attracted you to the data science field?

Data science is a subject with a diverse range of opportunities. I like the flexibility of being able to choose an industry that interests me and the level of involvement that data science allows in an organization.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Science in Data Science?

At first I considered only getting an online certification from Coursera, but after looking at various job postings, I found that a master’s in data science gives you an advantage in the job market and provides more opportunities to work on complex and interesting projects.

Why did you choose DataScience@SMU?

Having graduated from college in Texas, I was familiar with SMU’s reputation. Also, they created one of the first online data science programs available. 

Which skills and tools that the program covers do you find most appealing? Why?

The program includes a good mixture of programming and theory, providing a broader view of the skills learned. I appreciate how programming reinforces theory and theory informs programming throughout the curriculum.

How are you able to apply what you are learning to your current position?

As you might expect, there is an abundance of data to review at NASA. Recently, my group has discussed bringing me into that part of that process.

What surprised you most about the online learning environment?

I was surprised that the real-time online classes felt very similar to on-site classes I had previously taken. 

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Be sure to set aside more time than you initially expect. Also, promote your new skills with your current job early on. The more opportunities to use your new skills, the better. 

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