Home Blog Faculty Spotlight: Walter Bialkowski, Ph.D., on using data science to make a difference

Walter Bialkowski, Ph.D. on Making a Difference with Data Science

January 06, 2023
Faculty Spotlight featuring Dr. Walter Bialkowski, Ph.D.

Like several of Marquette University’s Department of Computer Science faculty members, Walter Bialkowski, Ph.D., didn’t start off his academic career as a programmer but came from another branch of STEM. Dr. Bialkowski is trained as a clinical epidemiologist and earned his bachelor’s degree in biology before earning a master’s in comparative pathology followed by a doctorate in clinical and translational health.

As a translational data scientist, Dr. Bialkowski focuses on applying data science techniques to other fields to innovate. According to Dr. Bialkowski it was “the opportunity to integrate mathematics, statistics, computer programming, database architecture, and translational science” that attracted him to the field of computer science. Defined by one scholar as “Research [that] transforms scientific discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical or population studies into new clinical tools and applications that improve human health,”1 translational science is all about an intersectional approach to research using the fundamentals of one field on another, though generally concerns health and medicine.

It’s likely that many graduates of the online Master of Science in Computer and Information Science program (especially those new to the field following the Career-Changer track) will work, or already have worked with some aspect of translational science. “I have found that combining computer and data science skills with a pre-existing area of expertise produces synergy and many opportunities to make a difference,” Dr. Bialkowski says, “Organizations are looking for candidates with robust skill sets who can tackle the more complex challenges emerging in competitive spaces: our students receive training in a diverse array of content areas that prepare them to meet these challenges with success.”

Using data to make a difference

Dr. Bialkowski got his start professionally as a Project and Program Manager in resuscitation research and later moved into a Program Director role in the field of transfusion medicine and led several projects including observational and interventional clinical studies. Dr. Bialkowski also was a part of a team that linked non-interoperable medical records throughout the United States in efforts to understand transfusion safety and efficacy. Now, working as an assistant professor of practice at Marquette, Dr. Bialkowski puts translational data science into practice as an instructor of the Data Intelligence, Data Analytics, Visual Analytics, and Data at Scale courses.

“I was always motivated by the thought that, through teaching, my skill set can be scaled by others to have much broader positive impacts,” says Dr. Bialkowski. In line with those values, some of Dr. Bialkowski’s latest work applies data science techniques to the field of food insecurity. “The opportunity to empower hunger relief organizations with knowledge derived from their data is an incredible opportunity,” Dr. Bialkowski says. From July 2020 to June 2021, Dr. Bialkowski and several graduate students worked with Feeding America of Eastern Wisconsin (FAEW) to apply business intelligence and data science techniques to support and improve FAEW operations.2

This project epitomizes Dr. Bialkowski’s instructional style in which he strives to help students connect their studies to real-world applications in any field they choose. Working with FAEW is just one example: students were able to engage directly with members of leadership and use cutting-edge data science skills to produce solutions, interrogate source systems to improve underlying data quality and better support analytic efforts. “They're getting access to real-world, real-time data on hunger relief. They're applying the techniques that they're using in class. They're turning those projects in for course credit and they're handing off what they create to our partner in the community to help them do their job better,” he explains, illustrating the complete circle of applied learning.

Providing meaningful online learning experiences

One of the key advantages of Marquette’s online M.S. in Computer and Information Science is the opportunity to learn from the same expert faculty that teach on-campus from wherever you’re located. “As a junior faculty member, I am humbled by the depth of expertise and breadth of knowledge my colleagues bring to the program,” reflects Dr. Bialkowski. He shares that his colleagues are not only experts in the field of computing but also in mentorship and pedagogical topics. “There is a high degree of collaboration, collegiality, and support in our program,” he says, “And students can expect practical, real-world, experience-supported intelligence and guidance throughout their time with Marquette.”

It’s this outstanding commitment from faculty that has helped the computer and information science master’s program rank third for best online student engagement, fifth for best services and technologies in an online IT program, and fourteenth overall for best online information technology master’s degree.3 For any students feeling apprehensive about online learning, Dr. Bialkowski advises that they should reach out to instructors early on in their program, “understand what is expected of you and how your work is mapping to success,” he says.

Reflecting on the strength of the program, Dr. Bialkowski shares, “I like that we have identified ways to engage with online students both synchronously and asynchronously in ways that build relationships and meaningfully tailor curricula to their interests.” He also notes that faculty are happy to help students plot their progression through the degree program based on their comfort level and professional goals. “We provide practical guidance to students and remain flexible and adaptive given possible shifts in interests.”

Expand your career opportunities with data science

Marquette’s online M.S. in Computer and Information Science (CIS) offers a wide array of electives and pathways for career-changers as well as students already working in the field of information technology. With courses in data analytics, cybersecurity, software development and more, students from all backgrounds and working in all industries can shape the program to suit their career growth and upskilling goals. “Many smaller-to-middle sized organizations are embracing the power of CIS and data science at driving business needs and goals,” Dr. Bialkowski says, “we are fortunate to teach students to solve these challenges.”

At Marquette, you won’t just receive a degree, you’ll also build your experience as a problem-solver, a big-thinker and world-changer. Dr. Bialkowski shares three traits he believes are inherent to M.S. in Computer and Information Science graduates, “Competence, confidence and vision.”

To learn more about the online M.S. in Computer and Information Science, schedule a call with an Admissions Advisor.