Introduction to Programs Week: Human Centered Data Science (HCDS)

By Faria Khandaker (Second year ISD and HCDS student)

My experience in the courses that fall under the Human Centered Data Science concentration have been absolutely mind blowing and I mean that figuratively and literally. My background is in Anthropology and Human Biology and although I had taken a few calculus courses and coding courses in my undergrad, I was not prepared for the amount of effort that was required to finish the Python coding course in my first semester. I am thankful that the Faculty of Information allows students of non-technical backgrounds to challenge themselves if they are truly interested in going down the Data Science path. It is very challenging, but I am enjoying every moment of it.

The courses that involve coding in Python and R were intense but do-able. Successfully completing the Python course taught me two key things: Firstly, if you want to become good at a coding, you must become obsessed with it. By obsessed I mean your coding assignment should be the first thing you think of when you get up in the morning and the last thing you think of before you go to bed. Secondly, go to professor’s office hours for help from the beginning. The professors here are phenomenal and are always willing to help you figure it out. There are no dumb questions; they have heard it all. These are what helped me complete the R coding course and is giving me the confidence that I will be successful in the upcoming Machine Learning course.

Many of my classmates are already people who work in the industry or have a background in computer science and I sometimes feel intimidated by how they can connect the use of Data Science methods to a variety of fields. I am not very interested in applying Data Science to Biology and am not sure how I could apply it to Anthropology, so my domain knowledge gap is large.

The reading course I am currently doing in Process Mining (which is a subfield of Data Mining), under the supervision of Professor Arik Senderovich, is helping me to fill in my “application of Data Science” knowledge gap by teaching me how to analyze business processes for inefficiencies using a variety of tools and algorithms. All organizations (healthcare, education, NGOs etc.)  have specific processes and procedures in place to help people complete their tasks so the knowledge I am gaining can be applied to a wide number of fields. Data science applications in business always has a human impact as social factors can affect the efficiency of systems (hello COVID). The R coding course showed me the importance of taking a “Human Centered” approach to Data Science, which is being reinforced through the readings in this course as well. Attending different workshops like the Toronto Data Workshop, hosted by the iSchool, also has given me a lot of exposure to data science application in industry. I have learned a lot this past year and am looking forward to learning more in my final year!

If you have question about HCDS or ISD (Information Systems and Design), let’s connect on Instagram!  @ariafariakh

All images courtesy of Faria Khandanker

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