Ambitious student organization has big ideas for big data

Posted: October 21, 2016

A recent Harvard Business School study announced that within a year, there will be a huge demand for analytics positions and a shortage of about 50-60 percent to fill that need. As a result, The Ohio State University is making efforts to increase analytics’ presence on campus as part of its Discovery Themes initiative.

Driving this movement is the student-led Big Data and Analytics Association (BDAA). 

Pictured are BDAA President Derek Sasthav and Executive Vice President Alisa Noll. Both are industrial and systems engineering students in their senior year.

This student organization is expanding rapidly and recently received the Ohio Union's "Outstanding Innovation and Change Award." A mere three years ago, the BDAA consisted of about 10 undergraduate students. They came together for one goal: to serve as the central connection between faculty, students and the growing analytics community in Columbus. 

The organization has become highly recognized on campus, with a mailing list of over 1,000 emails and approximately 100 active members (students attending three or more meetings per semester). Membership includes undergraduates, grad students and professors in a variety of disciplines. In its most recent survey, 40 percent identified as data analytics majors, 30 percent engineering and 25 percent business.

“I received an internship with LexisNexis thanks to BDAA” says Kal Roemer, a fourth-year data analytics major. “They do a good job of attracting all kinds of people interested in this field.”

BDAA divides its efforts into three main activities.

The association aims to help students discover career opportunities by partnering with companies across the globe. Companies send their best data science talent to weekly meetings to speak about their work. Their functions vary from banking to healthcare to a privatized governmental start-up. Current sponsors include IBM, Lubrizol, Cardinal Health, Columbus Collaboratory, Illumination Works and Chemical Abstract Services.

BDAA also trains its members. It hosts workshops on topics such as machine learning, then provides an opportunity to put these skills to action in case competitions, utilizing real company data with the chance to win prizes. It also offers semester-long projects, often commissioned by a sponsor as a team-based paid-internship. 

BDAA’s annual Networking Night, which is essentially a relaxed career fair, has grown in size and talent every year. This year marked the third installment, which included 30 companies and more than 300 students. 

Additional growth for BDAA seems almost certain. This year, the first cohort of students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in data analytics. And by spring of 2018, BDAA will have its own office in the newly remodeled Pomerene Hall, with the entire building servicing analytics projects, networking and more.

To learn more about BDAA, visit

by Alisa Noll, integrated business and industrial systems engineering major
Category: Students