For Amanda Styles, data science is not just an occupation but a vocation. She passionately believes that it can be used to make the world a better place and matriculating at the University of Dundee gave her the opportunity to prove just that.
Amanda graduated in MSc Data Science with distinction at the University’s summer ceremonies in June. She also won the best data science project award for her dissertation, which saw her work with a research team at the Institute of Global Health, University of Geneva to try and understand the spread of HIV in Malawi.
The team are creating mathematical models to understand the spatial variation of the epidemic in the country. The research is unique in that it combines different data types and datasets, with the project broken down into several sub-projects. Amanda worked on one examining socio-behavioural characteristics in Malawi and then investigating the prevalence of HIV within particular clusters.
Her research revealed geographical differences in infection rates even within the same socio-economic groups. Amanda says she is delighted to have been able to play a small part in research which it is hoped could help slow the spread of HIV in Africa.
“For me, data science isn’t just micro-targeted Facebook ads but it’s something with real potential to help people around the world and this project is the perfect example of this,” she said.
“We were trying to identify the groups in Malawi where HIV is prevalent and those for whom it isn’t so we looked at the population and broke it down into groups to try and identify who is at most risk.
“What we found was that there were groups that where further testing would not be worthwhile and possible inferences such as age being correlated with HIV status.”
A public health priority
Work by Amanda and her colleagues was presented at the 23rd International Workshop on HIV and Hepatitis Observational Databases (IWHOD) in Athens in March. Once the overarching project has been completed, it is hoped this will help inform public health policy in Malawi and that similar models can be built using data from other sub-Saharan countries.
“My involvement was to take on a small subset of a very wide remit but I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work with the team at Geneva,” continued Amanda. “I made the decision to study at Dundee because they offered the option of a part-time Masters. I live in Manchester and work full-time as a data scientist so studying this way allowed me to gain the skills I wanted to advance my career. I wanted to do something I was interested in, that inspires me and that will make a difference to people’s lives, and my Dundee experience offered me all that.
“Coming into my Masters I had a lot of experience in software development and I knew the skills I had gained in data science could be deployed to make a difference. When it came to my dissertation I looked around for a suitable project and when I heard about what the Geneva team were doing I wrote to the project lead to ask if I could take on some of the work. It all worked out well and I am grateful for everything I have learned on this course.”
More information about the MSc Data Science can be found at https://www.dundee.ac.uk/study/pg/data-science/.
To find out more about the work of the Institute of Global Health in Geneva please visit https://www.unige.ch/medecine/isg/en/research/988keiser/