Ian Castro

Ian Castro is a third-year (Class of 2021) student studying media studies and microbial biology. In his time at Berkeley, he has become an active member of the data science community, bringing computer and data science skills to a range of students, from high schoolers to graduate students. Read on to learn how he got interested and what he sees for the future of data science.


Question: How did you end up at Berkeley?

Answer: I’m from the East Bay, specifically Pleasanton. When I was deciding which college to attend, I  was selecting between UCLA and Berkeley. During high school, I was a part of a research study on the Berkeley campus, and I really enjoyed the environment. Berkeley fits me better in terms of personality, especially because I am interested in so many different things. I also live about 40 minutes away so it’s nice to be so close to home. 


Q: You are assistant teaching for a data science graduate course around city planning with Professor Karen Chapple. How did this course come about?


A: The specific project is called an Introduction to Data Science for Graduate Students, or Data 8X. We wanted to create a smaller version of the introductory “Foundations of Data Science” (Data 8) course that focused more specifically on graduate students. Thus, we created a hybrid online version of Data 8 in which the students come in weekly for labs to discuss the content and apply it to their fields. We have guest speakers and the students participate in independent research projects. This helps because we have graduate students from various disciplines enrolled in the course. 


Q: What fueled your passion for inclusion in computer and data science? 

A: I come from a predominately upper class and White community. I never explored computer science because I thought it was a bit elitist in that it wasn’t accessible if you didn’t have the right background or role models in technology. When I came to Cal and took Data 8, I realized it actually is accessible. My goal is to help make data science pathways more equitable and give everyone the basic skills they need to enter careers in data and computer science. 


Q: How have you been working with local high school students to introduce them to data science? 

A: This past summer I worked in Washington DC with the Internet Education Foundation on the Congressional App Challenge. The goal was to get high school students interested in computer science. I have also taught at Splash at Berkeley. This program brings high school students to campus for a full day of learning led by Berkeley students. I partnered with other students on the Data 8 staff to facilitate a data science lecture.