Department Graduates First to Complete the Agricultural Data Science Certificate

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Ph.D. graduate Tasmin Hossain, M.S. graduate Shelly Hunt and Ph.D. candidate Mariella Carbajal-Carrasco are the first students to complete the new Agricultural Data Science Certificate. The certification, developed in cooperation between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Science, and the College of Engineering, and directed by BAE assistant professor Daniela Jones, bridges a divide between data science and agricultural fields of study. 

“I am very excited about the first graduating cohort of the certificate as they are already leaders tackling challenges such as food insecurity, sustainable agriculture, and climate change,” says Jones.

Ph.D. graduate Tasmin Hossain, M.S. graduate Shelly Hunt and Ph.D. candidate Mariella Carbajal-Carrasco
(left to right) Ph.D. graduate Tasmin Hossain, M.S. graduate Shelly Hunt and Ph.D. candidate Mariella Carbajal-Carrasco are the first students to complete the new Agricultural Data Science Certificate.

Hossain successfully defended her dissertation Mobilizing National Cellulosic Feedstock Supplies for Biofuel Production in October. She is now a systems modeling postdoctoral research associate working in the operations research and analysis team at Idaho National Laboratory.

“The Ag Data Science Certificate is a great tool to understand how to utilize agricultural datasets in real world problem solving,” she says. “The offered courses including some of the most promising aspects of agriculture and data science such as statistical analysis, agricultural data analysis and modeling, machine learning algorithms, and GIS for precision agriculture. I truly believe that the certificate is a valuable addition towards my professional development as it has helped me hone my analytical and modeling skills.”

Hunt defended in September and is now a senior associate business development specialist with SAS where she interned during her graduate training. She was also a member of the interdisciplinary research team on the Sweet-APPS project that aims to reduce agricultural waste and maximize yield for North Carolina’s sweetpotato producers.

“Because of the certificate, I have honed very specific skills which allow me to understand the complex worlds of both agriculture and data science. I am not an expert in either field, but I am a translator who can speak both languages and play a critical role in interdisciplinary projects. I help bridge the gap between agronomists and data engineers to further drive innovations in both fields. Now that I have graduated, I use the skills I gained from the Agricultural Data Science certificate every day in my role with the AgTech division of SAS Institute,” says Hunt.

Carbajal-Carrasco is currently conducting research for her dissertation on developing process-based and machine learning models for predicting sweetpotato yields and quality characteristics.  She is also part of a research team experimenting with the growth of sweetpotatoes on the planet Mars. The project, aptly called Pack to Mars, is part of the Plan Mars challenge promoted by the Institute of Competition Sciences (ICS) in partnership with the University of Central Florida CLASS Exolith Laboratory and NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to conduct science-based experiments on grow crops using Martian regolith stimulants.

“The Agricultural Data Science Certificate allowed me to boost the skills gained during my Ph.D. degree program and my career by having hands-on real big data, machine learning approaches and data visualization,” explains Carbajal-Carrasco. “One of the most rewarding experiences during the certificate was participating in the SAS Hackathon 2022, where we were finalists. It was not only an enriching experience but also fun. I chose this certificate because it fit my interests, and I am confident it will have a positive impact on my professional career by helping me create decision-support tools for optimizing management practices and productivity for the benefit of local food systems and the environment. The Agriculture Data Science certificate is valuable for professionals with some or no experience in data science as it includes coursework for all levels across various academic departments.”

“This certificate is one of the many steps that NC State University has taken towards developing a unique training ground for a new breed of problem solvers amidst a rapidly growing population, climate shifts, and emerging crop diseases and pests,” Jones adds.

Learn more about the Ag Data Science Certificate.