Course objectives

This course serves as an introduction to data science with focus on the acquisition and analysis of real-life data. Students will learn the toolsets needed to 1) create workable and reproducible datasets by accessing, scraping, sampling and cleaning data; 2) conduct exploratory data analysis and data visualizations; 3) apply statistical tools to learn from data; and 4) build functions and basic apps. Coding languages R and Python will be used.

Learning Objectives

Through this course, students will become familiar with the techniques used in Data Science, applied to health-related datasets. Students will learn:

  • Programming in R, and associated tools Markdown, Git
  • Data visualization – summarizing data through interpretable summaires
  • Data collection – data scraping, wrangling, cleaning, and sampling
  • Exploratory data analysis – generating hypotheses and building intuition
  • Basic statistical algorithms
  • Building software packages and apps

Prerequisite(s): None

Recommended Preparation: Undergraduate course in statistics and programming

Course Notes

Lecture notes presented in class will be posted on GitHub.

Technological Proficiency and Hardware/Software Required

Computation using R (downloaded from, and development tools including Git ( and Markdown will be used throughout the semester.

Readings and Supplementary Materials

  1. R Programming for Data Science, 2019. Roger Peng.

Supplementary References

  1. R for Data Science, 2017 Garrett Grolemund and Hadley Wickham.
  2. Exploratory Data Analysis with R, 2020 Roger Peng
  3. Mastering Software Development in R, 2017 Roger Peng, Sean Kross, Brooke Anderson

Description and Assessment of Assignments

Assignments: There will be 5-6 assignments given throughout the semester, approximately every week. Students may discuss the problems with one another, however, individual solutions must be submitted and copying will not be tolerated. All assignments must be completed in R Markdown, and submitted through the Github classes portal of the course. Late assignments will be penalized by 20% for each day past the due date.

Final Project: The final project will be to develop a reproducible R package, Shiny app, or pipeline for analysis applied to a real-world dataset.

Labs: Lab attendance is mandatory and participation in the lab is required and counts as part of the overall lab grade.

Grading Breakdown

Assignment % of Grade
Labs 20%
Homework (6) 30%
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Project 30%
TOTAL 100%

Assignment Submission Policy

Assignments shall be submitted on the Github classroom portal of the course. Late homework assignments will not be accepted without penalty, except when verifiable extenuating circumstances can be demonstrated.


Week 1 (8/27) Introduction to Data Science tools: R, Python, Markdown, Git, command line tools
Week 2 (9/3) Version Control & Reproducible Research
Week 3 (9/10) Exploratory data analysis
Week 4 (9/17) Data visualization
Week 5 (9/24) Data cleaning and wrangling
Week 6 (10/1) Text Mining
Week 7 (10/8) Scraping, APIs, and Regular Expressions
Week 8 (10/15) Fall Recess (No class)
Week 9 (10/22) Midterm Exam
Week 10 (10/29) High performance computing, cloud computing
Week 11 (11/5) Managing big data, SQL and non-SQL languages, Google BigQuery
Week 12 (11/12) Interactive visualization and effective data communication I
Week 13 (11/19) Interactive visualization and effective data communication II
Week 14 (11/26) Thanksgiving Holiday
Week 15 (12/3) Final project workshop: review project progress, preliminary presentations
Week 16 (12/10) Final Project

As the weeks go by, consult the Schedule Page for more information on weekly topics, problem sets, readings, and other materials. The schedule is likely to change as we go. Links to readings, assignments, and other materials from class will be posted on that page.

Statement for students with disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.

Statement on academic conduct and support systems

Academic Conduct:

Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences. Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Part B, Section 11, “Behavior Violating University Standards” Other forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable. See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct,

Support Systems:

Student Counseling Services (SCS) - (213) 740-7711 – 24/7 on call
Free and confidential mental health treatment for students, including short-term psychotherapy, group counseling, stress fitness workshops, and crisis intervention.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
Provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Services (RSVP) - (213) 740-4900 - 24/7 on call
Free and confidential therapy services, workshops, and training for situations related to gender-based harm.

Sexual Assault Resource Center
For more information about how to get help or help a survivor, rights, reporting options, and additional resources, visit the website:

Office of Equity and Diversity (OED)/Title IX compliance – (213) 740-5086
Works with faculty, staff, visitors, applicants, and students around issues of protected class.

Bias Assessment Response and Support
Incidents of bias, hate crimes and microaggressions need to be reported allowing for appropriate investigation and response.

The Office of Disability Services and Programs
Provides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange relevant accommodations.

Student Support and Advocacy – (213) 821-4710
Assists students and families in resolving complex issues adversely affecting their success as a student EX: personal, financial, and academic.

Diversity at USC
Information on events, programs and training, the Diversity Task Force (including representatives for each school), chronology, participation, and various resources for students.

USC Emergency Information
Provides safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued if an officially declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible,

USC Department of Public Safety – 213-740-4321 (UPC) and 323-442-1000 (HSC) for 24-hour emergency assistance or to report a crime
Provides overall safety to USC community.