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DS340W.001 Applied Data Sciences

Teaching Team

Instructor: Zihan Zhou

Office: E367 Westgate Building

Office Hours: 3-4pm Tuesday or by appointment


TA: Rui Yu

       Sumedha Prathipati

Office hour: 2-3pm Friday or by appointment

Location: Reese’s Café (Westgate building, 2nd floor)

Course Information

Course Number: DS 340W

Credits: 3


  • Time: 10:35AM - 11:50AM Tuesday and Thursday
  • Location: E208 Westgate Building

Course Description

This course builds up the students' understanding of data sciences by discussing the fundamental principles in the context of real-world examples, and then shows specifically how the principles can provide understanding of many of the most common methods and techniques covered in previous data science courses. The course features three individual projects as well as a team project spanning the entire course. After taking this course, the students should be able to cover the entire pipeline of a data science project, from problem formulation to data science solutions. That is, start from a data driven problem, identify pertinent datasets to the problem and collect data, reason about the best techniques that should be used to solve the problem, implement algorithms and models, assess performance, and communicate actionable insights through both written reports and oral presentations.

As one example, a fundamental principle of data science is that solutions for extracting useful knowledge from data must carefully consider the problem in the real world scenarios. This may sound obvious at first, but the notion underlies many choices that must be made in the process of data analytics, including problem formulation, method choice, solution evaluation, and general strategy formulation. Another fundamental principle is that predictive modeling can both inform and be informed by relevant knowledge (including theories, models, frameworks) of the relevant domains. This principle manifests itself throughout data science: in the specific design of many particular data sciences applications, and more generally as the basis for all intelligent solutions. In this course, this principle will be highlighted by case studies from multiple domains so that students can be inspired to apply this principle to their term projects.

Lastly, as most data science projects are delivered as solutions as opposed to software deliverables, the ability for data scientists to communicate their results through concise and actionable insights plays a critical role in a data science project. This course places a particular focus on developing student writing abilities, through formal project reports and presentations. The individual projects will offer an interactive experience for students through feedbacks on their reports provided by the instructor. The term-long project will also train students in writing in a collaborative environment.

Course Prerequisites

DS 300 and DS 310 or CMPSC 448

Recommended Textbooks

Grading Policy

Three (3) individual lab assignments


Group course project


Special topic presentation


Class Attendance and participation10%


Late submission policy:

Submissions after the deadline but less than 24 hours late are accepted but penalized 10%, and submissions more than 24 hours but less than 48 hours late are penalized 30%. No submissions are accepted more than 48 hours late.

Note: A computer system failure does NOT constitute a valid excuse. It represents poor planning on your part.

Final grading:




This table indicates minimum guaranteed grades. Under certain limited circumstances (e.g., an unreasonably hard exam), we may select more generous ranges or scale the scores to adjust.

Attendance Policy

Attending class is required. If you cannot come, please let the instructor or TA know beforehand. Your class participation will count 10% of your final course grade.

Academic Integrity

Individual assignments must be completed independently. Students are strongly encouraged to form study groups and to learn from peer students. However, discussion on homework questions in study group should be limited to general approaches to solutions. Specific answers should never be discussed. Penn State's policy regarding Academic Integrity must be followed.

According to the Penn State Principles and University Code of Conduct: Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at Penn State University, allowing the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. In according with the University’s Code of Conduct, you must not engage in or tolerate academic dishonesty. This includes, but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person, or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Any violation of academic integrity will be investigated, and where warranted, punitive action will be taken. For every incident when a penalty of any kind is assessed, a report must be filed.

*Plagiarism (Cheating): Talking over your ideas and getting comments on your writing from friends are NOT examples of plagiarism. Taking someone else's words (published or not) and calling them your own IS plagiarism. Plagiarism has dire consequences, including flunking the paper in question, flunking the course, and university disciplinary action, depending on the circumstances of the offense. The simplest way to avoid plagiarism is to document the sources of your information carefully.

Disability Access Statement

Americans with Disabilities Act: The School of Information Sciences and Technology welcomes persons with disabilities to all of its classes, programs, and events. If you need accommodations, or have questions about access to buildings where IST activities are held, please contact us in advance of your participation or visit. If you need assistance during a class, program, or event, please contact the member of our staff or faculty in charge. Access to IST courses should be arranged by contacting the Office of Human Resources, 332 IST Building: (814) 865-8949.

Students with Disabilities: It is Penn State’s policy to not discriminate against qualified students with documented disabilities in its educational programs. (You may refer to the Nondiscrimination Policy in the Student Guide to University Policies and Rules.) If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site at

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and provide documentation (see documentation guidelines at If the documentation supports the need for academic adjustments, ODS will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at the beginning of each semester.

Statement on Nondiscrimination & Harassment (Policy AD42)

The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment. The Pennsylvania State University prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status. Discrimination or harassment against faculty, staff or students will not be tolerated at The Pennsylvania State University. You may direct inquiries to the Office of Multicultural Affairs, 332 Information Sciences and Technology Building, University Park, PA 16802; Tel 814-865-0077 or to the Office of Affirmative Action, 328 Boucke Building, University Park, PA 16802-5901; Tel 814-865-4700/V, 814-863-1150/TTY. For reference to the full policy (Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment):

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