Data Science Fellow Spotlight

By SAMUEL MURK CAYA

Ainsley Clapp (Class of 2022) is a concentrator in Social Analysis and Research (SAR). 

She was a part of the third cohort of Data Science Fellows in Fall 2021. Ainsley started her time at Brown convinced she would study physics, but soon changed course to pursue sociology and completed her concentration with time to spare in her undergraduate studies. Not one to rest on her laurels, she sought to make the most of her remaining time.

Ainsley had enjoyed the quantitative methodology in physics, and she worked to add quantitative analysis back into her studies. Once more, she shifted concentrations, albeit this time less drastically. She changed to Social Analysis and Research, still under the Sociology Department. Moreover, she took multivariate statistics courses and introductory computer science courses—namely, Computing Foundations: Data (CSCI 0111) and Computer Science: An Integrated Introduction (CSCI 0180).

Becoming a Data Science Fellow was the next step, and the work she did in that course reaffirmed her sense that she enjoys tackling problems as part of a team, and she is excited by the client-consultant relationship. However, the class did more than just add clarity to what Ainsley wanted to do after Brown; it actively contributed to her after-Brown plans. Ainsley explains below:

Being a part of the Data Science fellows program has not only enhanced my exposure to more data science tools but aided me in receiving an offer for next year. In my second-round interview with a large government consulting firm, I was posed with a business problem involving data science! As my interviewer and I worked through the case, the conversation easily flowed into a discussion of the importance of data science, especially when it comes to bringing innovation to the government. We discussed data visualization, domain knowledge, and the wide array of applications of data science tools; all of these topics I had discussed in great detail in my Data Science Fellows class. I concluded the interview feeling as though I had not only mastered the aspects that comprise data science but also mastered my ability to articulate and communicate data science to someone else. In a follow-up email with the interviewer, I thanked her for our interesting conversation about data science, and she responded,“I always enjoy nerding out about the power of data science with fellow believers.” Thanks to Data Science Fellows I take that as a total compliment! I am both a data science nerd and a total believer!

As she notes, the position is in government consulting. The firm works with all levels of government—local, state, and federal—and public sectors such as defense, education, and health care. Ainsley will be interacting with clients, deconstructing their problems, and drafting reports to document solutions and present recommendations to the clients. The position is a continuation of everything she has worked toward in her time at Brown. In talking with Ainsley about the position, she said something that quite nicely summarizes one of the goals of the Data Science Fellows and the Data Science Initiative at large: “Data science is just as much an approach to talking about problems and solutions as it is a toolset. Data science is more than just application; it’s communication between the data, the client, and the consultant."