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Ptukhin on ground floor of Monmouth’s new data science major

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – One of Monmouth College’s newest academic majors – data science – has a new faculty member as one of its chief proponents.

Last fall, Yevgeniy Ptukhin joined the College’s newly renamed Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, and he is serving as an assistant professor of statistics for the data science program. Data science joins engineering and neuroscience as the College’s new majors.

“Computer science is a growing field, and data science is one of the extensions of that field,” said Ptukhin. “When you look at the job market in computer science, employers want you to know a little more about other fields like statistics and data science and be more in the analytical mainstream.”

Technology, of course, is playing a major role in that growth.

“Thirty years ago, we worked in kilobytes and megabytes,” he said. “Right now, we’re talking about terabytes (one terabyte equals one trillion bytes). So data sets are different, and there are different techniques for collecting that.”

Monmouth’s new data science major consists of introductory and intermediate courses in data science, statistics, computer science and mathematics along with advanced work in computer science, applied course work in data science, and studies in another discipline that provides issues and problems for which a data science-based approach makes sense.

Ptukhin initially pursued economics as a college student, earning a bachelor’s degree and specialist certification from Kharkiv State Polytechnical University in Ukraine. He switched gears in a major way in his late twenties as he came to the United States to focus on mathematics and statistics, which had held his interest in his younger years.

“I’m kind of a math and stats person,” he said. “When I was younger, I was doing a lot of math-related things,” which included participating in competitions in Ukraine. “I decided to get my master’s, and we’ll see (where it leads).”

Ptukhin holds two degrees from Southern Illinois University – a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in quantitative methods – as well as a master’s degree in general business from Texas Tech University.

The two advanced degrees at Southern Illinois took a combined five years to complete. All the while, Ptukhin was being educated in American culture, too.

“In movies about America, you normally see big-city life,” said Ptukhin. “So when I saw the skyscrapers in Chicago, that’s what I expected to see. Being in a smaller university town like Carbondale or Monmouth is different from the America you see in movies. ... Carbondale’s a bigger city, but the style I see in Monmouth is similar to what I saw in Carbondale. It’s a nice Midwestern town, and people are very nice.”

That includes the students, especially the ones Ptukhin has encountered at Monmouth.

“(Monmouth) students tend to want to have conversations, many of which are informal,” said Ptukhin, who appreciates the College’s smaller class sizes after instructing as many as 50 at a time while in graduate school. “They also send emails and are more personal that way, too. In general, you feel that the distance between teacher and student is much less than it is at larger universities.”