Yandex company blog

Advancing Data Science Education in Israel with More Students and Opportunities in 2020

Last week, the newest class of students at Y-DATA, the hub of our education initiatives in Israel, completed their first semester of the one-year data science program.  By summer, this cohort of roughly 90 students will become the second alumni class of Y-DATA, enhancing both the Israeli tech and global research communities.

We initially launched the program on the campus of Tel Aviv University in 2018 as a new branch of our Yandex School of Data Analysis (YSDA), an intensive, master’s-level program in data science.  We designed Y-DATA to bridge the gap between online courses and a full-time masters program in computer science.  Our primary goal of the program is to equip students with the skills and experience to start a career in data science.  The Y-DATA curriculum develops particular skill requirements that are beneficial to Israeli employers, meaning our graduates are well-prepared to enter (or reenter) the local workforce.  

Y-DATA starts 2020 with double the enrolled students, a new, second branch on the campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, and an improved curriculum taught by a faculty with several new exciting members.  Over the past year, we've improved the Y-DATA curriculum to provide our students with a more comprehensive data science learning experience.  We’ve also welcomed several new outstanding faculty members to our program who bring their expertise from BGU and other prestigious academic institutions.

Among other changes, we now cover Deep Learning later in the program, when students have a more solid base of classic ML techniques.  Program faculty expanded this section from four to six hours per week to provide students with a more in-depth understanding.  We’ve also added a new mini-course on autonomous vehicles that a Yandex expert from our self-driving division teaches.  In addition, the final six weeks of Y-DATA will now include three parallel specialisations on different advanced topics in data science: Reinforcement learning, Adversarial learning and NLP.  We can’t wait to kick that off later in the spring and see how these changes better prepare our students for success!

Together with the local tech community in Israel, we have delivered a hands-on learning opportunity in which students master the basics of machine learning and then apply their skills through industry projects with local companies.  Our first class of Y-DATA students contributed to over a dozen impactful industry projects that ranged from detecting early stages of cancer using medical imagery to improving road safety by classifying driving behavior and predicting dangerous situations.

Our principles for sharing knowledge and continued education have led to our alumni advancing AI applications around the world.  We awarded a sponsorship to the top project team from our 2019 Y-DATA Demo Day to attend the ACDL summer school in Tuscany, Italy.  This team went on to win best poster at ACDL for their work detecting pulmonary nodules in 3D scan images, which targets a highly challenging aspect of early-stage cancer detection.  This team is now working on publishing a paper based on their work.

Though Y-DATA is less than two years old, several of our alumni have  already applied their newly learned skills to reach exciting and lucrative positions with their employers.  Many graduates have also successfully transitioned to the new careers that led them to Y-DATA, and all have enhanced various businesses with their machine learning expertise.  Along with their career success, the fledgling Y-DATA alumni community actively participates in opportunities for collaboration and further education.  For instance, our alumni can participate in unique advanced workshops that teach subjects like Hyperparameter Optimization and they can serve as Teaching Assistants for the current academic year. 

In addition to the Y-DATA community of students and alumni, we also host regular tech meetups that focus on different topics in data science from ML in cybersecurity to creative AI.  Each meetup brings together industry experts and tech professionals, who are ultimately making Y-DATA a hub for the Israeli tech industry.

We couldn’t be prouder of our first alumni class in all that they have achieved within such a short time and, for many, without any prior experience in data science.  We are thrilled to be entering the second semester with our 2019/2020 cohort with even more opportunities that we introduced to improve the program.  If you’re interested in applying to Y-DATA, applications for 2020/2021 open in April.  You can find more information on the program website.