My First Data Science Conference

Day 1 — November 30th

I kept peeking my phone even though I already set the alarm. I made sure I left early enough to crawl through the Atlanta morning traffic.

As an aspiring data scientist, I could not contain the excitement to participate my first data science conference when Women Who Code organization presented me this wonderful opportunity. The 2017 DataSciCon was held at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Once I stepped inside the conference, I immediately sensed the conference was well organized. The registration counter bustling with volunteers helping attendees to settle in. More than 300 data enthusiasts from companies, research institutes, and government entities participated in the event to learn & share cutting edge data analytics and machine learning ideas. I was told some attendees coming far away from Middle East and South Korea. When you love data, nothing can stop you!

At the breakfast, I held my hand out to introduced myself to a lady. She tiled her head trying to find out from my name tag which company I represented. I proudly told her I represented the Women Who Code organization.

After the delicious breakfast by Georgia Tech Hotel catering, we all streamed into a big conference room. The 2-day conference was kicked off with an opening key note by IBM Watson CTO Rob High on “Evolving Role of Computing in Our Lives”. After the morning key note, each following hour had three separated well planned sessions by highly-respected and knowledgeable speakers in the field. The dynamic topics ranges from most trending machine learning subjects like neural network, quantum computing, to session for data science beginners — Intro to Python and Jupyter Notebook.

Prior to attending the conference, I had a dilemma deciding the sessions I wanted to attend. I wish I could attend all the sessions in person. Neural network & deep learning sessions fascinated me. I personally also enjoyed and gained a lot of knowledge from a few companies presenting their machine learning projects on fault detection and using unsupervised learning on text mining.

The first day ended with happy hour reception. The reception was a great time to socialize, meet people, and to chat with our admired data scientists. After LinkedIn and name card exchanges, I headed home and eager to learn more the second day.

Day 2 — December 1st

Dr. Beverly Wright, who leads the Georgia Tech Business Analytics Center, kicked off the second day conference. Dr. Wright summarized the survey conducted recently with company executives on their perspective about data science and machine learning. If you are interested in learning more, Dr. Beverly has scheduled a meetup on Feb 20, 2018 in Atlanta for this topic as well.

While there were many wonderful sessions, I am most excited about Nicholas Handville on “Analytics and Big Data in Education”. The opportunity applying data science to K-12 is vast. Imagine a robot that can augment teachers to predict students’ learning pattern and maximize their potential. How about using AI to synthesize student musical instrument in the band & orchestra? AI can also inspire art creations. A virtual classroom to elevate student’s learning experience like the Magic School Bus is the future. Data science can potentially simplify the college application by automating the student data and learning pattern retrieval process. Oh school lunch…data science can fundamentally transform the way school lunch being prepared and served. Are you thinking about delicious & nutritious school lunch meal idea prepared by AI like Watson Chef? I am thinking about a robofarm to supply fresh produce for schools.

Talk about lunch, the gourmet lunches for the conference were top rated came with all you can eat desserts. I introduced myself & Women Who Code to two young ladies from Brazil at the lunch table. The WWOC introduction immediately sparked their interest in who are seeking opportunities to learn coding. I passed the information and gladly help them to attend the next meetup.

Cui Lin, the speaker on “Jarvis: The Next Generation of AI Engine for Robot World” demonstrated the future robotic application in banking, healthcare, and customer services. She brought in her tiny robot Bill who spoke Chinese. That was adorable!

Chris Benson, Chief Data Scientist from Honeywell closing the conference with key note on “Summoning the Demon”. The subject stirred up a lot of discussions on human race encountering super-intelligence in the future to come. This topic, along with ethics and data bias, should be brought up constantly to remind us, as a data scientist, plays a very important role and bear huge responsibility in careful data preparation and clear objective in machine training.

In closing, the conferences gave out a lot of prizes including Google AI Kits. After the conference, many strolled the street of Atlanta mid-town decorated with holiday festivity to Ri Ra Irish Pub for happy hour. It was just wonderful to meet and exchange ideas with smart people who love data science, especially women!

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