Women in Data Science @ Penn Conference

5 Questions for Katherine Lin: Data Scientist in Training


This story sits at the intersection of challenge and opportunity. First, the pandemic. While a time of crisis, it has also been a year of revealing numbers. Take, for instance, all the data generated from this very unique moment in our world’s history that can help us reflect on various outcomes and better prepare for comparable crises in the future.

That data, in part, helped Katherine Lin turn yet one more COVID-related disappointment into an opportunity. Lin, currently a senior at Byram Hills High School in New York, was preparing last spring to apply to the Wharton Data Science Academy, a summer program that introduces machine learning and data science tools to high school students. When that program was canceled due to the pandemic, Katherine reached out to Program Leader Linda Zhao, a Wharton professor of statistics, to explore possible mentorship prospects.

That outreach inspired an immersive data science experience for Katherine that began with her studying statistical machine learning models and R programming language through Zhao’s online “Modern Data Mining” classes, then moving to working virtually alongside Zhao to conduct comprehensive data research on COVID-19 death rates and its impact on counties with different socio-economic characteristics, and finally presenting her findings in February 2021 during the remote Women in Data Science @ Penn Conference. (See Related Links tab for information about Wharton analytics and statistics).

This year’s conference theme – This is What a Data Scientist Looks Like – emphasized the depth, breadth, and diversity of data science, including one particularly well-researched student from Byram Hills High School.

Wharton Global Youth caught up with Katherine to hear more about her data discoveries. “My biggest takeaway from this entire experience is that I want to go into a career where I can do research in data science just because this experience was so rewarding,” says Katherine, who is headed to MIT in the fall. “I was able to get results that meant something and were really relevant. I want to continue that. I want to be able to help people while pursuing my passion for computers and data science.”

About WiDS @ Penn Conference

Women in Data Science (WiDS) @ Penn is an independent virtual event presented by the University of Pennsylvania to coincide with the annual Global WiDS Conference held at Stanford University and an estimated 150+ organizations worldwide. All genders are invited to attend WiDS regional events, which features outstanding women doing outstanding work. This year’s theme for WiDS Philadelphia @ Penn was: This is What a Data Scientist Looks Like.