Students Gain Valuable Insight at Women in Data Science Conference

By Rachel McNeely

From the left, Allison Hansen, Rachel McNeely, and Mackenzie Schaich

Every semester Dr. Anderson’s Data 101 class participates in a Kaggle data science competition to compete for a trip to a data science conference. As the winners of the Fall 2016 semester competition, my teammates, Mackenzie Schaich and Allison Hansen, and I were flown to Washington, D.C. to attend the annual nationwide Women in Data Science Conference on February 3, 2017. The conference is held at 75+ locations worldwide, with the main conference at Stanford University.

We spent the day before the conference exploring Washington, D.C. and Georgetown. The next day started with a workshop in SHINY, a package in R that turns data analyses into interactive web applications. We then attended various sessions led by female professionals. Some of the presentations were technical while others focused on general innovations in the field. Topics ranged from the inner-workings of the CapitolOne cybersecurity framework and using data science for public welfare to the philosophical limitations of data.

Allison’s favorite aspect of the conference was the networking opportunities throughout the day with female professionals. Mackenzie preferred the SHINY workshop, which she believed was presented in a very understandable format. My favorite speaker was Deborah Frincke, the director of research at the National Security Association, who addressed the data science challenges that the NSA and nation are currently facing.

Aside from learning many technical skills and innovations, being surrounded by talented, motivated women in the field inspired us to continue our education and instilled in us a hope that one day we can use data science to make a difference, too.

Screenshot of a web application we created using the R application, SHINY