The Wonderful World of Women in Data Science

My name is Erin Bugbee, and I am a Junior, concentrating in Statistics and Behavioral Decision Sciences with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence. This is my story of how the Data Science Initiative has shaped my Brown experience and future career. 

During the summer before my freshmen year, I entered the lottery for first-year seminars, and to my disappointment, I was not placed into my top choice: APMA 0110, What’s the Big Deal with Data Science?

Regardless, I fervently emailed the instructor describing my interest and attended the course until ultimately, she gave me an override code. The course was taught by Katherine Kinnaird, a Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow affiliated with the Division of Applied Mathematics. Her enthusiastic introduction to the material sparked my interest in the field, and this was only the beginning. I was absolutely inspired.

In Summer 2017, I participated in an eight-week-long research experience, [email protected], at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics on Brown's campus in Providence. The program was sponsored by the Data Science Initiative and the research focus was Topological Data Analysis. The first four weeks consisted of learning the theory behind this emerging field, which approaches data analysis by considering the shape of data. The remaining four weeks involved working on a specific related research project. My project aimed to apply techniques from Topological Data Analysis to Music Information Retrieval. Specifically, the aim was to develop an algorithm to detect cover songs. My advisor was Dr. Kinnaird and my team consisted of Claire Savard, then an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and presently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Melissa McGuirl, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown. Together, we achieved highly promising results.

That eventful summer came to a close but it was not the end of my research journey. In January, I attended the 2018 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, CA to present “Comparing Songs Using Matrix Pattern Preservation.” I won the Outstanding Poster Award, given to the top fifteen percent of posters for each category. In the Spring 2018 semester, I enrolled in DATA 0080: "Data, Ethics, and Society," taught by Professor Roger Blumberg. The course focused on the social, political, and philosophical impact of data science. Through open discussion, the liberal-arts-style seminar provoked the consideration of potential consequences of data science, challenging me to think critically about the field I'd been pursuing.

This past August, I attended the 2018 Disney Data & Analytics Conference as a recipient of the Disney Data & Analytics Women Scholarship. I first came across this scholarship in the DSI's Weekly Newsletter. The scholarship included full funding to attend the conference in Orlando, FL, networking opportunities, and presenting a poster of a project implementing statistical analysis and data science techniques. I exhibited the research sponsored by the Data Science Initiative for [email protected] As a scholarship recipient, I was recognized in front of an audience of more than 1,600 data enthusiasts from over 200 companies and universities, as well as all segments of The Walt Disney Company. Needless to say, the conference was magical.

The tour continued this past September, with the opportunity to present my first peer-reviewed paper at the International Society of Music Information Retrieval Conference in Paris, France. This opportunity was possible with financial support of ICERM and a student grant from ISMIR. At ISMIR 2018, I introduced this publication titled, “SE and SNL Diagrams: Flexible Data Structures for MIR,” in both an oral presentation and poster session. As possibly the youngest attendee and author, this conference revealed a potential future path in research and academia. I loved the exposure to the brightest minds and the newest, state-of-the-art techniques, feeling as though I can contribute to the progress and the advancement of knowledge. It is positively incredible to feel that as an undergraduate.

These extraordinary opportunities demonstrate the impact of the Data Science Initiative on my experiences at Brown. With the support of the DSI, I have found a field I am truly passionate about and have been provided with the encouragement and resources to pursue it.

I have become a researcher, a published author, and a data scientist. To me, this is the big deal with Data Science.