Data Science Profile: Michelle Ndugulile

By: Louisa Gaylord

Michelle Ndugulile (‘23) recently graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Data Science. Prior to her undergraduate studies at UW, Michelle was interested in a variety of STEM subjects, such as math, anatomy, and physiology. But it was biology that captured her interest the most, and inspired her to pursue it in college and into a future career.

Michelle did not discover the Data Science Minor program until her senior year, when she was looking for extra courses to fulfill her degree requirements before graduation. “I recognized the escalating demand for fundamental programming skills in the current job market, and I felt compelled to have some sort of basis in the domain,” Michelle said. She discovered the UW Data Science Minor after searching for beginner-friendly programming courses to supplement her Biology courses. There was a natural overlap between many of the statistical research and data analysis courses of the minor and the classes she was taking to complete her major.

“I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the public health and STEM courses I had already completed [also] contributed towards fulfillment of the Data Science Minor requirements,” she said. “I made the decision to allocate the remaining portion of my academic journey towards expanding my STEM knowledge into a new realm.” 

Michelle wanted to enhance her data science proficiency while also broadening her biology skill set. One of her favorite courses was “Introduction to Genetic Epidemiology” with Jennifer Morris Gogarten from the UW Department of Biostatistics; the course integrated genetic and environmental factors of health and disease with data visualization methods, allowing Michelle to gain insightful perspectives on disease analysis. Another of her favorite classes for the Data Science Minor was “Foundational Skills for Data Science” with Pramod Gupta from the UW Information School. “As someone who was initially new to data programming, the course provided the groundwork for learning data manipulation, analysis, and visualization which was invaluable in understanding complex data sets,” Michelle said. “The course also provided students with the opportunity to work on projects involving real-world data, allowing me to witness the tangible impact of data-driven results.”

Data science tools are utilized in a number of different areas of study, so the minor can help augment any of the majors that UW offers. Michelle also attended the Data Science & Society Seminar (CSE 491) that showcases the diversity of data science applications. “I was surprised how integrative and broad it is,” she said. “Witnessing data science’s representation across various disciplines, including health, machine learning, and art – [it] instilled a sense of connection within me.”

With the 2023 Fall Quarter just around the bend, there will be a new wave of undergraduates who might be interested in how data science tools and techniques can be integrated into their areas of study. “Don’t feel intimidated by the name of the minor! The [program] offers a broad range of courses, so you’re bound to find something that is of interest to you,” Michelle says. “If you are unfamiliar with data science, taking courses in the minor also serves as an opportunity to learn a new valuable skill that will be applicable to any class or career.”

If you are interested in learning more about data science at UW, consider attending one of the UW Data Science Seminars that will be held on Tuesdays at 4:30 p.m. in the Physics/Astronomy Auditorium A102 during the Fall Quarter; these free weekly presentations host scholars working across applied areas of data science, such as the arts, engineering, humanities, computer science, applied math, and statistics.