By William Foote published on Jun 2nd, 2022
The first UCLA DataSquad cohort is graduating together.
The team led by co-directors Tim Dennis and Zhiyuan Yao was composed of project manager Keona Mae Pablo, two Norman Powell Data Science Consultants (NPDSC), Julia Wood and Ethan Allavarpu, and hybrid NPDSC/technical writer Will Foote, for the 2021-2022 academic school year.
The student-quartet only worked together for one full quarter, but their work set the stage for their successors to build off their collaborative model. In their time on the DataSquad, the four have helped clients from a variety of backgrounds reach their research goals through data and worked tirelessly to make sure the model is sustainable beyond their graduation.
The four members of UCLA’s DataSquad have each provided an important role in this iterative process and collaborated together to reach this mission, even though they started on the team at different times.
Senior statistics major and digital humanities minor Julia Wood was the first to join the team in 2021, before the DataSquad was even officially established. During her time on the team, she consulted countless clients, taught multiple Tableau workshops, and trained Ethan after he joined the team in Winter 2022.
Throughout her time on the DataSquad, Julia helped research investigate topics from music fans on Twitter to gentrification in LA. Her final and most recent project involved Dr. Terrence of the UCLA Biocritical Studies Lab wherein she exemplified the data cleaning and visualization skills that made her a valuable asset to the DataSquad and all the clients she helped.
Speaking about how her work in the DataSquad changed her view on the project process, Julia said: “You take the right steps to make sure you don’t mess up.” She said that this is how DataSquad consultants can deliver final work that is “reputable, reproducible, and ready to be published.”
Julia will take the skills she’s learned on the DataSquad to Meta, where she will begin her career as a data scientist in the fall of 2022.
Keona Mae Pablo is the DataSquad project manager and is a senior cognitive science major and digital humanities minor at UCLA. She worked since Fall 2021 to establish and implement the DataSquad model at UCLA. She designed and implemented workflows, helped hire the Squad, and managed their work. She also functioned as a liaison between the DataSquad staff and squadron workers to create an organized, well-functioning data science consulting team.
When asked about her work with the Data Squad, Keona Mae said: “I know the DataSquad is a valuable resource that the UCLA community will grow to love and appreciate, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish the year strong without the hard work of my team.”
Keona has accepted an offer to become a project manager at Plain Concepts following graduation.
Will Foote, a senior statistics major and public affairs minor at UCLA, has been working as the DataSquad’s Technical Writer as well as one of the team’s Norman Powell Data Science Consultants since Fall 2021. He wrote and put together the 2021 Recap and Spring 2022 newsletters for the Data Science Center. He has also published – and is writing more – blog posts on the DataSquad’s website to recap the team’s work.
Will has also completed numerous consulting projects as well. Notably, working with DataSquad International – the nascent global organizing group for the DataSquad – he has provided data analysis on survey results about student employment in data science support services at institutions worldwide. The DataSquad International team will present Will’s analysis on the DataSquad International website and at upcoming European and U.S. conferences.
Will is currently searching for data scientist or statistical consulting positions to begin his career following graduation.
Ethan Allavarpu, a statistics major at UCLA, was hired in Winter Quarter 2022 and has hit the ground running in his first quarter with the DataSquad. Since joining the team, he has worked on three projects and looks to take on more in his last quarter at UCLA.
Ethan worked with Julia on Dr. Terrence Keel’s research project on fatal encounters with police, in which he helped in the data cleaning and processing phases. He also analyzed geolocation helicopter data and created a program to parse text from Microsoft Word and PDF files using Python in his other two projects.
Following graduation, Ethan will be pursuing a Master of Science in statistics data science at Stanford University.
The team hopes that through creating well-documented briefs on their well-organized procedures, the DataSquad can introduce a new way to think about student employment entirely: as one cohort handing the baton to the next, rather than simply being replaced by a new, independent generation.
The team has already hired the next two Norman Powell Data Science Consultants, Tristan Dewing and Shail Mirpuri who are both rising seniors. It is also currently in the hiring process of the next project manager and technical writer.
Regardless of who fills out the rest of the team’s roster, the first cohort is confident they’ve set the stage for sustained momentum of the DataSquad beyond themselves and excited to see where their successors take the model going forward.