Ask JGI Student Experience Profiles: Vanessa Hanschke

Ask JGI Student: Vanessa Hanschke
Vanessa Hanschke, 3rd year PhD student, in the School of Computer Science at the University of Bristol

JGI Student Experience Profiles: Vanessa Hanschke (Ask-JGI Data Science Support 2022-23)

I initially wanted to join the Ask-JGI because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to keep my coding skills alive. I studied computer science and have worked in the data and AI industry for three years before starting my PhD in Interactive Artificial Intelligence. My PhD looks at supporting data science teams to reflect on the social impact of their applications through roleplay and although my technical background is helpful, I don’t actually write any code on a day-to-day.

The JGI experience definitely gave me opportunities to practise some coding, but it also gave me so much more. I was able explore all the interesting research work happening around the university, whether it was fish genetics, appetite psychology, analysing racist discourse or history video games. It’s inspiring to see the many different things researchers can do with data and how different their data sets look: qualitative data in the form of survey responses, hand curated excel sheets manually extracted from historical archives or long lists of numbers collected with environmental sensors. My biggest takeaway is that, because academia can be such a competitive environment, having a place that will give you constructive feedback and support is invaluable. It was very rewarding to facilitate connections between researchers who could collaborate or to provide a piece of advice or that little snippet of code that helped researchers become unstuck.

Another big highlight of being part of the JGI was participating in public outreach events such as AI UK in London or Bristol Data Week. It is such an exciting space and so much fun to speak to people who are just learning about data concepts and are curious to know if it will benefit their lives or if the perceived harms will manifest. The media buzz around data and AI means there is a lot of important work that needs to be done to both demystify the hype, while also opening up opportunities for people to be creative with the possibilities that data science can provide.