UTA Student Giving Order, Meaning to Data

When Shashwat Dhayade plays the drums, he deftly plays a series of notes in a particular order which produces a rhythmic sound that’s highly pleasing to the ear – the essence of creating music. As a freshman in the College of Science at The...

Monday, Mar 28, 2022 • Greg Pederson :

When Shashwat Dhayade plays the drums, he deftly plays a series of notes in a particular order which produces a rhythmic sound that’s highly pleasing to the ear – the essence of creating music.

As a freshman in the College of Science at The University of Texas at Arlington, he analyzes massive quantities of data comprised of individual bits of information and extracts important insights from them – the essence of data science.

Dhayade sees the parallels in these two fields, which together consume most of his time these days. He is majoring in the College of Science’s data science program, with an emphasis in geoscience. While he’s new to data science, he has been playing the tabla – a set of two drums played with the fingers and palms of the hands while sitting on the floor – since he was a child in his native India. He practices daily and can sometimes be found playing under a tree in the parking lot of his campus residence hall.

“In tabla you have random notes, and you can play anything you want with those notes,” he said. “Data are random bits of information. Until they’re collected and interpreted, they don’t mean much, and playing the tabla is sort of the same thing. It’s a series of random notes and rhythmic sounds but until they’re put together into a particular order, they’re just sounds. If you put them together, you can play all kinds of rhythms and phrases and songs.”

His interest in data science started when he was finishing his secondary education in India and the coronavirus pandemic began. He was researching what fields he might like to study in college and saw an article online about how data about infection rates, symptoms and morbidity was helping governments and health professionals decide on the best ways to combat the pandemic.

“That was pretty interesting to me, how data can influence every step of the process, and how it can change people’s lives,” he said. “That’s how I became interested in data science.”

He started looking into university undergraduate data science programs and found UTA. The College of Science began offering data science courses in 2018 and launched its full bachelor’s degree program in fall 2021, which is when Dhayade enrolled at UTA. He was won over by the program’s integrated degree plan, which incorporates data plus a science discipline that educates students to use data science for solving problems in various science fields.

“I didn’t know that universities would have data science as a major and when I saw the news about UTA College of Science starting its own data science bachelor’s program, I was very excited,” he said. “Coming here was perfect for me. The main attraction was the science focus the program offers. It’s not only data science but the science discipline with it as well. That helps you build a stronger resume and gives you a good knowledge of everything you’re going to be working on in the future.

“I chose geoscience for my science discipline because I wanted to learn more about the environment and global warming and how data can help solve those problems.”

Dhayade prepared himself before coming to UTA by taking a course in AP Statistics (in which he earned a perfect 5 on the exam) and watching online tutorials on coding and other computer skills. His first data science course at UTA was DATA 1301, taught by Amir Shahmoradi, assistant professor of physics, and it affirmed his belief that he made the right choice in majors.

“Professor Shahmoradi was so amazing in my Introduction to Data Science course I took last semester,” he said. “He taught us not only the basics of data science but how to be a professional data scientist, and what skills you should have in your future career. He taught us how to do data storytelling because there’s a lot of that in data science.”

DATA 1301 is an interactive course that aims to teach and encourage critical thinking and logic, combined with fundamental concepts from statistics, computer programming, and domain-specific knowledge like astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology, Shahmoradi said.

“We had many excellent students in DATA 1301 last semester and Shashwat was certainly among the best, receiving an A in the course,” Shahmoradi said. “The nature of the course requires students to actively participate in class activities and discussions. Once students take an active role in class, they begin to truly see the joy of data science and the process of finding things out. Shashwat was quite active in class. I believe that taking this active role combined with his persistence is what allowed Shashwat to excel, and those things will help him in the future.”

Dhayade has enjoyed getting acclimated to living in the United States and to college life. He has been to downtown Dallas and to see friends and relatives in Plano and Frisco. He says he would love to go to the Six Flags Over Texas theme park and to try indoor skydiving.

“When I first came here from India, I was amazed by all the open space, the big parks and everything, because in India, you don’t usually have massive areas like Texas,” he said. “UTA has been great. I have made some good friends over here. The residence hall where I’m living is a good community. I’m getting involved in things here at UTA; there’s always something going on. Also they have a lot of academic resources to help students and get your doubts cleared, so it’s been pretty awesome.”

Meditation is something Dhayade does on a daily basis. Meditation helps him to gain control over his thoughts and become thoughtless, which helps him to organize his day with no stress. Practicing the tabla is another part of his daily routine. He began playing as a hobby when he was a child and started taking lessons when his parents realized how much he enjoyed it.

“Before I got my own drums, I used to take my father’s motorcycle helmets and put them side by side and play on them,” he said. “My parents thought it was funny but then they put me in a tabla class because I was so interested in it. With the tabla, one drum is larger and gives the bass sound and the other drum is smaller and gives a more rhythmic sound.

“The key is being able to create your own phrases while playing the tabla. It can be played everywhere, by itself or with other instruments. I’ve been playing for 10 years now and it’s hard, but I think I’m really getting the knack of it. It takes a lot of practice to be good; professionals practice for probably eight hours a day.”

Last semester, Dhayade’s residence hall had a talent contest and he played the tabla, which very few other students had seen before. He earned third prize.

While Dhayade looks forward to continuing to hone his skills on the tabla, he is also excited about learning more about data science and how it can be applied to fight global warming and help create solutions to other environmental issues.

“The great thing about data science is that it can be applied to any field,” he said. “Data science can help solve a variety of problems, if you have the tools to understand what the data is telling you.”


The UTA College of Science, a Texas Tier One and Carnegie R1 research institution, is preparing the next generation of leaders in science through innovative education and hands-on research and offers programs in Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Data Science, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Health Professions, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology. To support educational and research efforts visit the giving page, or if you're a prospective student interested in beginning your #MaverickScience journey visit our future students page.

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