CMSC320 – Spring 2024 (Section 0101)

Introduction to Data Science

Header image to data science course website showing a multi-colored cube or matrix

Dr. Fardina
Dr. Fardina Alam (
Head Teaching Assistants (TAs):
George Aviva
George Witt Aviva Prins
Teaching Assistants (TAs):
Curie Yonghan Aishani
Curie Kim Yonghan Lee Aishani Mukherjee
Ishan Kobe Zichao Gaurav
Ishan Kar Kobe Wang Zichao Liang Gaurav Shrivastava

Lecture Schedule: HJP 0226, Tuesday & Thursday 12:30–1:45 PM EDT

Course Overview

Data science encapsulates the interdisciplinary activities required to create data-centric products and applications that address specific scientific, socio-political, or business questions. It has drawn tremendous attention from both academia and industry and is making deep inroads in industry, government, health, and journalism.

This course focuses on (i) data management systems, (i) exploratory and statistical data analysis, (ii) data and information visualization, and (iv) the presentation and communication of analysis results. It will be centered around case studies drawing extensively from applications, and will yield a publicly-available final project or tutorial that will strengthen course participants' data science portfolios.

The course will primarily consist of sets of self-contained lectures and assignments that leverage real-world data science platforms when needed. As such, there is no assigned textbook, but there will be some recommended ones. Many lectures will come with links to required readings, which should be completed before or after the lecture (as declared), and, when appropriate, a list of links to other web resources.

Note: This course outline is tentative and subject to modification to meet the specific needs and requirements of the students and the evolving field of data science.


Students enrolled in the course should be comfortable with programming (for those at UMD, having passed CMSC216 will be good enough!) and be reasonably mathematically mature. The course will heavily utilize the Python scripting language through Google Colab (or sometimes Jupyter Notebook if needed), relying on the Anaconda package manager. Primer lectures on Python for data science will be provided early on, so there's no need to worry if you haven't used Python before. Later lectures will delve into statistics and machine learning, potentially incorporating basic calculus and basic linear algebra. A light mathematical maturity, roughly at the level of a junior CS student, is preferred.

This course is aimed at junior- and senior-level Computer Science majors, but should be accessible to any student of life with some degree of mathematical and statistical maturity, reasonable experience with programming, and an interest in the topic area. If in doubt, e-mail me:!

Tentative Topics:

Introduction to Data Science, Experiment Design, Introduction to Python, Data Types, Data collection, Git, Pandas, Database, SQL, Probability, Summary Statistics, Hypothesis Testing, Data Visualization, Data Exploration, Introduction to Machine Learning, Classifications, Decision Trees, Regression, Feature Engineering, ML Evaluation, Neural Network, Image Processing, Natural Language Processing (NLP) Introduction to Graph(s) Theory, Recommender Systems, Data Science Ethics

Learning Outcomes:

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:

By the end of the course, students will have acquired a versatile skill set, enabling them to tackle real-world data science challenges with confidence and ethical awareness.


There will be five to six assignments, one final project, two written midterm exams, and one final written exams (cumulative).

Final grades will be calculated as:
Component Percentages
Assignments/Mini Projects 40%
Mid Exam 01 15%
Mid Exam 02 15%
Final Project/Tutorial 15%
Final Exam 15%

Late Policy

Late work gets no credit.

However, each student is provided with four 12-hour extensions, called tokens, on homeworks. Tokens will be automatically applied onto late homeworks. No request is necessary.

See the next section about how to contact us in special circumstances. We aim to help everyone succeed.


We are going to use a combination of in-person office hours and the Piazza forum (sign up here) for Q&A. This means that it's appropriate to use Piazza for asynchronous communication with the course instructors and other students, and also for short high-bandwidth discussions that could usually take place before/after class.

Note that Piazza is not appropriate for things like asking for accommodations or other such issues/concerns. Please email:

If you have a request that fits into one of these categories and you don't email one of these two emails, then your request may not get to the right person and not be answered in a timely manner.

If your correspondence does not fit into either of those two categories, please email an instructor (TA or professor) with [CMSC320] in the email subject line. You may also go to an instructor's office hours at the times listed below.

Please note: if you don't include [CMSC320] in your subject line when emailing instructors, your email may not be filtered correctly.

Office Hours

* All hours are EDT

Instructor Office Hours and TA office hours details can be found on ELMS as well as on Piazza.

You can find TA office hours locations for all your courses here. CMSC320's assigned space is AVW 4122, and if TAs are hosting hours virtually, you can find the zoom link next to their names.

Do keep an eye on Piazza, though; TAs will sometimes swap hours, shift hours, host hours on Zoom, and so on! Additionally, we have at least one TA explicitly covering Piazza on each weekday; all course staff will float around Piazza in general, too!




The schedule is subject to change as the semester progresses!

# Date Topic Reading Slides Notes
1 Jan 25 Introduction to Data Science Zybook Chapter 1(1.1 - 1.5) Lec01Intro Sign up on Piazza!
2 Jan 30 Experiment Design Experimentation Lec02ExpDesign
3 Feb 01 Python, Data Types Class Demo Python Zybook Chapter 2(2.1 - 2.4) Lec3.0DataTypes Lec3.1Python HW1 Out (Feb 01)
4 Feb 06 Git, Python In-class Exercise (Bonus) Lec04Git
5 Feb 08 Pandas, Database, SQL Zybook Chapter 2(2.6 - Pandas Packages)
Zybook Chapter 4(4.1 - 4.4), 4.5 - only "Full Join"
Lec05PandasSQL Final Project/Tutorial Instruction Out (Feb 8)
6 Feb 13 Probability, Distributions, and Summary Stats Central Limit Thm Lec06_07Prob
7 Feb 15 Probability, Distributions, and Summary Stats cont. Zybook Chapter 3 (3.2,3.3, 3.4 (except t-distribution), 3.5 (CLT Theorem)) Lec06_07Prob HW2 Out (Feb 15)
8 Feb 20 Hypothesis Testing Hypo Testing Steps And Examples Zybook Chapter 3 (3.1,3.5, 3.6)
Lec08Hypothesis HW1 Due (Feb 20)
9 Feb 22 Data Visualization Lec09DataViz Project First Checkpoint Due (Feb 22)
10 Feb 27 Data Exploration I Lec10DataExploration HW3 Out (Feb 27);
11 Feb 29 Data Exploration II, Data Cleaning Lec11&12DataCleaning HW2 Due (Feb 29)
12 March 05 Data Cleaning Zybook Chapter 5 (5.4) HandlingMissingData Continued.
13 March 07 Introduction to Machine Learning Zybook Chapter 9 (9.1,9.2) Lec13IntroToML
14 March 12 Midterm I
15 March 14 Classifications Feature Engineering & ML Evaluation Zybook Chapter 8 (8.2, 8.5)
Confusion Matrix
CrossValidationVideo KFoldVideo
Lec14FeatureEng&MLEvaluation HW4 Out, HW3 Due (March 14 Extension01 (bonus): March 16, Extension02(no bonus): March 24)
16 March 17 - 24 SPRING BREAK NO CLASS
17 March 26 Decision Trees Zybook Chapter 11 (11.1)
Lec15DecisionTree Project Second Checkpoint Due (March 26)
18 March 28 Regression Classifications Zybook Chapter 9 ( 9.3, 9.4),other reading materials are given end of the slide Lec16 Lec16Classifications
19 April 02 Feature EngineeringRegression Zybook Chapter 7 (7.1-7.4)
Simple Linear Regression
Lec17Regression HW5 Out, HW4 Due (April 02April 03)
20 April 04 ML EvaluationsUnsupervised Learning & Dimensionality Reduction Zybook Chapter 10 (10.1-10.2, 10.6) Lec18UnsupervisedLearning
21 April 09 Introduction to Neural Network Zybook Chapter 12 Lec19NeuralNetwork
22 April 11 Image Processing Lec20ImageProcessing
23 April 16 Intro to Natural Language Processing (NLP) I Lec21NLP01and02 HW5 Due (April 16)
24 April 18 NLP II Cont. HW5 Due (April 18)
25 April 23 Midterm 02 A Bonus HW (HW6) on NLP has been posted (OPTIONAL)
26 April 25 Introduction to Graph Theory NetworkX
Intro to GraphQL
These two materials are given for self-exploration if someone is interested.
27 April 30 Graph Theory cont. ClassNote_Girvan-NewmanAlgorithm
Girvan & Newman. "Community structure in social and biological networks," PNAS-02.
28 May 02 Recommender System Lec24RecommendationPart01
29 May 7 Recommender System cont. Lec25RecommendationPart02 Project Final Checkpoint Due (May 07)
30 May 9 Data Ethics Lec26DataEthics BONUS HW6 Due (May 09)
May 16, 1:30PM-3:30PM Final Exam (Details)



All the Assignments will be posted on Piazza/ ELMS. Instructions will appear over the course of the semester. Most assignments get released on the second day lecture material gets presented and are due two or three weeks after that. In Addition, we will use Zybook for CMSC 320: Introduction to Data Science as a part of most assignments. More details will be provided in class.
# Description Date Released Date Due
Homework 1 Git, Pandas, and SQL Feb 01 Feb 20
Homework 2 Statistics and Python Feb 15 Feb 29
Homework 3 Data Exploration and Hypothesis Testing Feb 27 March 14Extension01 (bonus): March 16, Extension02(no bonus): March 24
Homework 4 Classification March 14 April 02April 03
Homework 5 Regression, Gradient Descent and Neural Network April 02 (April 16)(April 18)
BONUS: Homework 6 Natural Language Processing April 23 May 09

Final Project

There will be a group final project/tutorial with a maximum of three persons in each group. Keep in mind that this is a semester-long project/tutorial for this course, and you should strive to make it your best work possible. It will be graded to a higher standard than the rest of the homework, considering that you have had the chance to practice these skills beforehand. Project details will be posted on Piazza/ELMS.

# Description Date Released Date Due
Checkpoint 1 Group Formation and Choosing Dataset Feb 08 Feb 22
Checkpoint 2 Data preprocessing and Exploration Feb 08 March 26
Checkpoint 3 Final deliverable of DS Project Feb 08 May 07

Academic Integrity

Note that academic dishonesty includes not only cheating, fabrication, and plagiarism but also includes helping other students commit acts of academic dishonesty by allowing them to obtain copies of your work. You are allowed to use the Web for reference purposes, but you may not copy code from any website or any other source. In short, all submitted work must be your own. Cases of academic dishonesty will be pursued to the fullest extent possible as stipulated by the Office of Student Conduct. Without exception, every case of suspected academic dishonesty will be referred to the Office. If the student is found to be responsible for academic dishonesty, the typical sanction results in a special grade “XF", indicating that the course was failed due to academic dishonesty. More serious instances can result in expulsion from the university. If you have any doubt as to whether an act of yours might constitute academic dishonesty, please contact your TA or the course coordinator. The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council.B This code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student, you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

Examples of Academic Integrity Violations:

The following are examples of academic integrity violations:

  • Hardcoding of results in a project assignment. Hardcoding refers to attempting to make a program appear as if it works correctly (e.g., printing expected results for a test).
  • Using any code available on the internet/web or any other source.
  • Hiring any online service to complete an assignment for you.
  • You may not post the implementation of your assignments, materials related to the class (e.g., project description), or any other material associated with this online course except the final project. Even if the class is over and you have graduated, you may NOT post any material other than what is allowed.
  • Sharing your homework solutions or your “test code" with any student.
  • Looking at or debugging another student’s code.
  • Using online forums to ask for help regarding our assignments.

AI tool disclosure: If a student chooses to use an AI tool to assist in any course work (e.g. assignments, programs, projects, reports, etc), they must disclose this information to the instructor. This disclosure should include the name of the AI tool and explain how it was used.

Consequences for non-compliance: Failure to adhere to this policy may result in a zero on the particular course work where the AI tool is used. In addition, the university honor code is applicable here: violation of the honor code and appropriate action will be enforced.

Class Announcements

You are responsible for reading the class announcements that are posted on both the course webpage and ELMS. Please check them often (at least once a day). Important information about the course (e.g., deadlines, assignment updates, etc.) will be posted on the course webpage.

Additional Administrative Information

University Policies and Resources

Policies relevant to Undergraduate Courses are found here: Topics that are addressed in these various policies include academic integrity, student and instructor conduct, accessibility and accommodations, attendance and excused absences, grades and appeals, copyright and intellectual property.

Projects/Labs: On any graded project or lab, you are NOT allowed to exchange code. We compare each student's code with every other student's code to check for similarities. Every semester, we catch an embarrassingly high number of students that engage in cheating and we have to take them to the Honor Council.

GroupMe/Other Group Chats: We encourage students to talk about course material and help each other out in group chats. However, this does NOT include graded assignments. There have been a couple instances in the past where students have posted pictures/source files of their code, or earlier sections have given away exam questions to later sections. Not only did this lower the curve for the earlier section because the later one will do better, the WHOLE group chat had to pay a visit to the Honor Council. It was an extremely ugly business. Remember that in a group of 200+, someone or the other will blow the whistle. If you happen to be an innocent person in an innocent groupchat and someone starts cheating out of the blue, leave it immediately (and better yet, say you are leaving and say you will report it).

Github: You may post your project code to private Github (or similar service) repos only. As a student, you can make a private repo for free. Just remember that your free premium subscription has an expiration date, and your code becomes public once it expires. The Honor Council can retroactively give an XF (even to students who have already graduated) if your code is then used by another student to cheat. So just be careful. Posting graded code to a public repo will give you a free ticket to the Honor Council(Unless the instructor has given you permission with some strict conditions).

Excused Absences

Missing an exam for reasons such as illness, religious observance, participation in required university activities, or family or personal emergency (such as a serious automobile accident or close relative’s funeral) will be excused so long as the absence is requested in writing at least 2 days in advance and the student includes documentation that shows the absence qualifies as excused; a self-signed note is not sufficient as exams are Major Scheduled Grading Events. For this class, such events are the final project assessment and midterms, which will be due on the dates listed in the schedule above. The final exam is scheduled according to the University Registrar.

For medical absences, you must furnish documentation from the health care professional who treated you. This documentation must verify dates of treatment and indicate the timeframe that the student was unable to meet academic responsibilities. In addition, it must contain the name and phone number of the medical service provider to be used if verification is needed. No diagnostic information will ever be requested. Note that simply being seen by a health care professional does not constitute an excused absence; it must be clear that you were unable to perform your academic duties.

It is the University's policy to provide accommodations for students with religious observances conflicting with exams, but it is the your responsibility to inform the instructor in advance of intended religious observances. If you have a conflict with a planned exam, you must inform the instructor prior to the end of the first two weeks of the class.

The policies for excused absences do not apply to project assignments. Projects will be assigned with sufficient time to be completed by students who have a reasonable understanding of the necessary material and begin promptly. In cases of extremely serious documented illness of lengthy duration or other protracted, severe emergency situations, the instructor may consider extensions on project assignments, depending upon the specific circumstances.

Besides the policies in this syllabus, the University's policies apply during the semester. Various policies that may be relevant appear in the Undergraduate Catalog.

If you experience difficulty during the semester keeping up with the academic demands of your courses, you may consider contacting the Learning Assistance Service in 2201 Shoemaker Building at (301) 314-7693. Their educational counselors can help with time management issues, reading, note-taking, and exam preparation skills.

Right to Change Information

Although every effort has been made to be complete and accurate, unforeseen circumstances arising during the semester could require the adjustment of any material given here. Consequently, given due notice to students, the instructors reserve the right to change any information on this syllabus or in other course materials. Such changes will be announced and prominently displayed.

Course Evaluations

Course evaluations are important and the department and faculty take student feedback seriously. Near the end of the semester, students can go to to complete their evaluations.

Miscellaneous Resources

As we go through the course sometimes I will mention additional resources or next steps. None of this is required for the course, but students have asked for me to keep a record of which texts/websites I mention.

  • Python for Data Analysis covers some of the same topics that we cover in this class, but in textbook form.
  • Data Science From Scratch this book is meant to give you a grounding in how some of the statistics and math could be implemented. Mostly, data scientists use off-the-shelf libraries for their mathematical routines/functionality, this books works through how you would implement some of those libraries. The idea is that this might give you a deeper understanding of what is going on. The implementations in this book are not meant to be high-performance, or industrial strength, but illustrative.
  • Web Scraping 101 is a good overview to how web scraping works.
As additional reading material and for some of the assignments, we will use "Zybook for CMSC 320: Introduction to Data Science", which is a digital textbook available for free. Details to access the Zybook will be shared in class later.