Data and ballpoint pen

College Offers First Professional Science Master’s Program

The Mathematics Department is the first department at Buffalo State to offer a professional science master’s (P.S.M.) degree program—the first and so far only P.S.M. in applied mathematics and computation in New York State.

P.S.M. programs are springing up across the country in response to a need for employees with advanced training in science or mathematics and training in management skills.

The new program, a master of science in professional applied and computational mathematics (PACM), is accepting applicants for fall 2010. Several competitive fellowships of $15,000 are available, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The 30-credit-hour program includes 9 credit hours of courses in analytical mathematical modeling; 9 credit hours in statistical data analysis; and 9 credit hours in business communication, project management, and operations management. A 3-credit-hour master’s project will include an internship involving data collection, analysis, and synthesis into an analytical mathematical model.

“Applied mathematics can help organizations gain the maximum benefit from data,” said Joaquin Carbonara, associate professor of mathematics and interim director of PACM. “Our goal is to provide employers in the nonacademic sector with much-needed experts in applied mathematics.”

The program’s offerings must be flexible so that it can be responsive to employers’ needs. To make the program as nimble as possible, the math courses are offered as 1-credit modular courses of five weeks each, for a total of three each semester. “This way,” said Carbonara, “we can adapt a module to respond to necessary changes or requests. It’s much easier to change a 1-credit course than a 3-credit course.”

The development of the PACM program was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Buffalo State College. The PACM’s advisory board includes an interdisciplinary group of faculty members and representatives from business, industry, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

“The goal of applied mathematics and the PACM is to train people to use math to solve problems in a multidisciplinary setting, to be effective communicators, and to work well within a team,” said Carbonara. “Applied math is flexible, and its practitioners will use any tool available to help organizations make data-driven decisions.”

For example, the amount of available raw data has shot through the roof as computers have gained in power and speed. However, such data is not information. That’s where graduates from the PACM program come in. They will know how to mine accurate and relevant information from raw data to enable organizations to make fact-based decisions.

“Even long-range strategic plans can benefit,” said Carbonara. “Planning five to 10 years in the future doesn’t have to rely on ‘guesstimates.’ Applied mathematicians can provide useful information about trends based on multiple factors.”

Carbonara also noted that applied and computational mathematics have broad uses across all the sciences, and can act as a bridge to connect disciplines.