Sheets Named Director of Data Analytics

December 20, 2017

BUFFALO, NY ― Canisius College Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret C. McCarthy, PhD, has appointed H. David Sheets, PhD, director of the college’s new, one-year MS program in data analytics.  Scheduled to launch in fall 2018, the new degree program applies fundamental scientific principles to the analysis of large, complex data sets.  Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, data analytics will function as a uniquely interdisciplinary major that provides students with a graduate-level education in three core components of the field: statistics, computer science and business (including accounting, economics, finance, management and marketing).

Sheets, a professor in the Physics Department, begins in his new role as director of the data analytics program in January 2018.  He will oversee the development and implementation of the interdisciplinary program, and teach program coursework.    

“Dr. Sheets is uniquely suited for the new program’s directorship,” says McCarthy.  She notes his considerable experience as a faculty member, an interdisciplinary researcher and program administrator, along with Sheets’ expertise in using a wide range of statistical and computational reasoning to analyze large data sets.  “His track record of collaborative leadership across all academic areas and willingness to build partnerships with businesses and non-profit organizations in the greater Buffalo region, enable him to effectively represent the data analytics program.”

The skills-based interdisciplinary nature of data analytics is unique in that external partnerships with businesses and non-profit organizations will drive the program’s experiential content, creating a connection between the skills afforded by the Canisius program and industry needs.  Additionally, the data analytics program will have an advisory board to actively seek input from the local community regarding the near-term needs of employers and the long-term needs of students and the community. 

Sheets’ tenure at Canisius includes a wide range of interdisciplinary research involving statistical and computational methods to extract information and make predictions based on large data sets.  His collaborations with scientists in entomology, anthropology, geology and forensic handwriting analysis have resulted in more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals. 

“Mass extinction events, the behavior of migratory songbirds and forensic bite-mark comparisons don’t have any immediately obvious connections, until you start to apply computational and statistical reasoning to broaden the understanding of these physical and biological events,” explains Sheets.

Sheets holds a BS in physics from SUNY Fredonia and a PhD in physics from SUNY at Buffalo.  Aside from his faculty position, he was chair of the Physics Department and director of the college’s pre-engineering program. 

Considered the ‘next frontier for innovation,’ data analytics is becoming a necessity for U.S. businesses, which consider it a key tool for investigating complex issues, identifying and solving problems, better decision-making and providing an edge over competitors.  Graduates of the MS in data analytics program will be adept at applying a broad range of computational and statistical methods, including exploratory and predictive analytic tools, to large data sets.  They will possess a broad understanding of the principles of statistical reasoning, which will allow them to understand and assess the utility of new statistical tools as they become available and to put those tools to practical use.  Students will also graduate with flexible computational skills, proficient in at least one general purpose programming language and at least one modern statistical package.  They will also study modern approaches to databases and data storage structures so they may rapidly learn new tools and packages, and maintain their own professional capabilities as new technology and procedures evolve. In addition to the program’s focus on the three core components, the data analytics program will emphasize the development of student capabilities in three crucial ‘soft’ areas: the ability to work in collaborative, multidisciplinary teams; the ability to communicate effectively with different audiences; and the ethics of data stewardship.

Students in the program will graduate prepared for careers in a vast number of fields including market research, financial fund management, insurance and risk management, cyber security and sports analytics.  

To learn more about the new master of science degree in data analytics, visit

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities and the premier private university in Western New York.                                                                -30-