Meet the 18-Year-Old Getting His Master’s Degree in Data Science

Written by Amanda Wicks • Updated on

With the University of Colorado Boulder's performance-based admission, Stanislav Liashkov was able to jump from high school to a master's degree.

[Featured image] University of Colorado Boulder MS in Data Science student Stanislav Liashkov

Advancing your education often used to mean making compromises, like relocating to attend a university or pausing a full-time job to focus on a fixed class schedule. Online degree programs have alleviated some of those hurdles, but many still require formal applications that ask a lot of students. 

Stanislav Liashkov, a current student in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Master of Science in Data Science program, was intent on learning data science after seeing the work his brother gets to do as a specialist in the field. But he faced challenging circumstances that made many of those pathways to higher education more difficult than normal.  

The 18-year-old Liashkov was born in Russia, but he and his parents have spent the past year in Turkey. “The reason why I’m here…well, [it’s] kind of obvious because the current situation in Russia isn’t as good as I would want,” he explained. “My family and I had to look for opportunities abroad.” 

Going from high school to a master's degree

As Liashkov began researching potential degree programs, he wasn’t sure how he’d get some of the necessary documentation that universities typically require to apply. “I do not have the opportunity to get some documents from my previous school,” he said. “Moreover, I’m not about to visit Russia. It really makes things difficult.” 

On top of that, Liashkov already knew what he wanted to study: data science. While he’d considered earning his bachelor’s degree, the time commitment seemed steep and he already had a strong foundation in math and computer science thanks to his high school education. Plus, he’d been supplementing that knowledge on the side. “I had lots of self-learning in computer science,” he said, which raised a valid question. “Why can’t I just pick the education that I’m really interested in?” 

That’s where the MS in Data Science from CU Boulder came in. The degree operates on a performance-based admission, meaning that any student who takes and passes three foundational pathway courses gains entry to the graduate degree. There are no requirements such as a bachelor’s degree or test scores, which removes what can sometimes feel like a barrier to entry. 

How performance-based admission helped Liashkov

It’s part of Coursera’s effort to partner with universities aiming to make online master’s degrees in in-demand areas like computer science and data science more affordable, flexible, and performance-based. “I found this program, and I realized that it is exactly what I needed,” Liashkov said.  

Without a bachelor’s degree, he was able to move into the graduate program thanks to his prior training in computer science. Even still, his pathway courses helped reinforce what he’d learned and exposed him to other relevant topics he had yet to encounter. “The computer science pathway gave me lots of skills and knowledge,” he said. 

In the computer science pathway, Liashkov watched lectures from Associate Professor Sriram Sankaranarayana. “I’m really thankful to him,” Liashkov said. He also attended practice labs, allowing him to apply what he’d been learning. “I really felt all of those labs were designed well,” he said. “I do appreciate when I have lots of practice to strengthen my knowledge to write code.” 

Connecting with global peers on Slack

Being an online student in a new country might have been an isolating experience, but Liashkov has connected with fellow students via the program’s Slack channel. “I have a chat with one girl from Malaysia, and [another] guy is from Israel,” he said. “[The program] is spread all over the world, as far as I can see.” He plans on taking advantage of the program’s flexibility by traveling himself. While working on his master’s, he’ll be relocating to Thailand to attend a programming intensive.  

When Liashkov graduates, he wants to work in machine learning. “This field is really exciting for me,” he said. “Just the fact that I can make my computer perform really complicated stuff without explicitly programming it, it’s really breathtaking.” 

But even once he achieves that goal, Liashkov remains eager to keep learning. “If you are a specialist in this field, you have to grow day-by-day, and you have to improve your skills, improve your knowledge,” he said. “That’s actually what I really love.” 

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