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BSc Math Alumni Participate in Women in Data Science 2021

June 2, 2021

Amina, Sarah, and Shahd presented their senior project at the WiDS UAE event. 


In March 2021, IBM Dubai hosted the Women in Data Science (WiDS) UAE 2021, a regional event that gathered established and emerging data scientists from a variety of institutions such as universities, corporations, and startups to participate in panels, lightning talks, and tech talks relating to data science, new technologies, and the future of the industry. The event also brings into focus the role of women in data science.


Three Khalifa University BSc in Applied Mathematics and Statistics alumni were invited to share their projects during the event. Amina Abood Mohammad Salem, Sarah AlBastaki, and Shahd Hardan each presented their senior project work during the lightning talks and participated in the following Q&A.


Amina talked about using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays to identify changes in gene expressions that are associated with disease phenotypes. SNPs can provide valuable insights about disease phenotypes, and Amina discussed the careful statistical adjustments necessary when extracting significant genes that may be associated with a complex disease. 


Sarah discussed implementing reinforcement learning in explore-exploit dilemmas to obtain the maximum possible reward from a set of actions. Her discussion included visualization and modeling of psychological data collected at the University of Arizona, USA. 


Shahd explained how to apply principal component analysis (PCA), a dimensionality reduction method, on the Human Genome Diversity Panel (HGDP-CEPH) data, to understand the population structure. Her work showcased a deeper look into this data than is typically done with PCA, visualizing single chromosomes and isolating specific subpopulations within the data.


The three students were supervised by Dr. Samuel Feng, Assistant Professor of Mathematics. “You’re always pleased to see the right people get some well-deserved recognition. Amina, Sarah, Shahd—their quantitative/analytical talent is clear. But they are also much more than “STEM graduates”. They are truth-focused women who work with integrity, don’t cover up mistakes, and have impressive ambitions, exactly the type of people society needs more of. I’ve always thought of helping to produce people, not degrees. So students are the product, and the customer is society.  Being in the UAE, this society clearly needs more people like these three—STEM graduates capable of independent thought and a work ethic based on trustworthiness. The same could be said for most of the rest of the world,” Dr. Feng commented. 


Khalifa University has a 60% female student body, a testament to its support of women to pursue advanced, specialized knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 


WiDS UAE 2021 is an independent regional event organized by WiDS Ambassadors in the UAE as part of Stanford University’s annual WiDS Worldwide conference. The initiative aims to support women in data science, as well as inspire and educate other data scientists around the world, regardless of gender.


Ara Maj Cruz
Creative Writer
2 June 2021