Andy Cho, a data science major (Class of 2020), got his start in data science through UC Berkeley’s Discovery Program.
Question: How are you using Data Science?
Answer: I worked on a project through the Discovery Program called Fall Armyworm, or FAW. The goal was to build a model that would monitor and predict locations of outbreaks of FAW, an invasive pest that has devastated crops in Africa. This system would then send early warning signals to farmers whose crops are in danger, who can then take preventative measures to protect their farms.
Q: What has surprised you about what you’ve learned?
A: Data science is messy. It isn’t algorithmic or formulaic; it’s never as simple as observing, analyzing, reporting. There are so many steps before, in between, and after that which are not well defined at all. It’s also subjective—the data scientist matters as much as the data themselves. It’s often a more creative, non-technical, intersectional practice in understanding the real world so the data and the results of their analysis are fair, accurate, and ethical. So in a sense, what has surprised me the most has been that I’ve learned so much about the real world and not just the technical data science stuff.
"Data science is messy. It isn’t algorithmic or formulaic; it’s never as simple as observing, analyzing, reporting. There are so many steps before, in between, and after that which are not well defined at all."
Q: Are you planning on using DS for your future career?
A: In the future, I want to use data science to help people. Data science is such a powerful tool, but so much of it right now is tech- and business-oriented. There’s so much more potential to apply data science to other fields, like environmental science, public health, etc. where it can provide direct benefit to people.