Brittany City, Wajehah Sanders and Shara Taylor are the first master’s program graduates from Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences.
“We are so proud of each of these graduates,” says Dean Fortune S. Mhlanga, Ph.D. “They impressed our faculty with their work and their passion to learn throughout their time at our School. They are also our first alumni, and we look forward to observing their continued professional growth.”
As a M.S. Data Science student, City took advantage of class projects to explore areas of data science and build a portfolio of experience.
“It is important to have experience with projects using different data science models so that I have an example for each one,” says City. “Then I will be able to discuss examples of work I’ve done related to a company or the personal interests of the interviewer.”
Despite holding a full-time job during the program, City held a research assistant position to work with Dr. Long Nguyen on a National Science Foundation funded project that will use social media activity to build a tool to support disaster planning. She also inspired high school students from underrepresented backgrounds with an engaging data science presentation during the Meharry Data Science Summer Academy.
In her Capstone presentation, “A Technology Career Predictive Model Using Education, Skills and Big 5 Personality,” City used three models to identify several identifying characteristics of technology professionals. She also used Cosine Similarity to develop a predictive model with a score of up to 90 percent.
Sanders built a strong portfolio of health care related projects as she pursued the M.S. Biomedical Data Science program. In 2022, she received the Beacon of Hope Summer Fellowship at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, a 10-week, paid summer program for 17 Historically Black Medical School students to learn drug discovery, data analytics and clinical research practices.
That fellowship included an internship in biostatistics where she worked closely with three mentors who are senior biostatisticians at Novartis.
“We provided an exploratory analysis of data for principal clinical investigators who are oncologists specializing in pancreatic cancer,” says Sanders. “We then collaborated with them to determine what types of information would be useful in their research and clinical trials.”
In her Capstone course, Sanders explored factors related to perinatal depression in her study “Predictors of Maternal Mental Disease: An Analysis of Perinatal Depression and Anxiety.” Her multivariate analysis found that Black women, when compared to white women, are more likely to have depression with their pregnancy. She also identified several medical conditions with statistically significant ties to pregnant women developing depression.
The Meharry SACS program appealed to Taylor as it combined the convenience of an online program with live, synchronous classes. A Nashville resident, she also knew Meharry’s legacy of addressing issues like health equity.
“I was looking for an online program that covered a wide breadth of classes,” says Taylor. “I also knew that, as an HBCU, Meharry would focus on issues that disproportionately affect the African American population as we explore data.”
As she progressed through the program she benefitted from applying her coursework to real data. In her Computational Machine Learning class, Taylor used 2,000 images from the COVID-19 Radiography Database to build a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) that can distinguish between COVID-19, viral pneumonia, lung infections and normal lungs.
In her engaging Capstone class presentation, “Mic Check: The Evolution of Lyricism in Hip-Hop,” Taylor exlored the words that have been used the most frequently in hip-hop songs over the past five decades. The project involved data wrangling and analysis of a dataset she collected from genius.com, that included 1,740,112 words pulled from 10,136 songs by 122 artists.
Each graduate received their degree during Meharry’s May 20, 2023, Commencement, held at the Grand Ole Opry House Auditorium. The school also celebrated their graduation during May 18 reception, held on campus.