New U of I Degree Program Combines Computer Science And Animal Sciences

cows in a barn

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will launch a new undergraduate degree program next year combining computer science and animal sciences. U of I officials say it’s the first degree program of its kind nationwide.

(Seth Perlman/AP)

A first-of-its-kind undergraduate degree program will launch at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign next fall, according to U of I officials. The program combines computer science and animal sciences, and is dubbed “CS + Animal Sciences.”

The creation of the program was driven by developments in agricultural and veterinary technologies, according to David Miller, a professor of animal sciences at the U of I. 

Miller points to technological developments in agriculture like remote sensors attached to livestock to measure their health and activity and personalized medicine both for farm animals and pets. He said new technology creates an enormous amount of data. 

“So having people with a computer science background that can do programming and analyze that data, as well as having some training in animal sciences is a real benefit, and so companies are looking for those kinds of people to hire,” Miller said. 

He said individuals in the agriculture industry appear to be interested in the new program. 

“They are wondering when they can hire students with this kind of background and, of course, we’re just getting the program off the ground now,” Miller said.
Miller said he expects graduates from the new program to be especially attractive to employers, and receive higher starting salaries than traditional animal sciences graduates.

“This, I think, gives them an option to really distinguish themselves among the animal sciences students around the country,” he said. Miller said the new degree program was also created to attract more students into animal sciences.

“I think that there are more and more students that have an interest in computer science but also have some interest in animals,” he said. 

Miller said students can double major in the two fields, but that may take five or six years for them to complete. While this program, “is the first one that is a combined major — one degree —  that can be completed in four years.”

Miller also expects other universities to follow U of I’s lead. 

“If ours turns out to be successful, I think other universities will try to do the same thing. Particularly if our students are being hired, as I expect them to be,” he said. “I guess the best form of flattery is copying, so I think others will probably try and do the same.” 

The program will accept transfer students beginning next fall, while incoming freshman can enroll in the fall of 2021, Miller said. 

“CS + Animal Sciences” is the tenth U of I degree program to combine computer science and another field of study. It’s the second degree program of its kind, including “CS + Crop Sciences,” to be offered in the U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Follow Lee Gaines on Twitter: @LeeVGaines

Story source: WILL