From the Source: Jane Huston

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My background is in public health research. Before coming to Galvanize, I was working on a really cool project that was actually using a lot of data science concepts. It was trying to better detect infectious disease outbreaks faster than traditional methods by using new informal data sources and a lot of online data. One of the really well known projects in the field was trying to detect influenza activity based upon Google search term data. I was with a group at Harvard Med that was working on different ideas and projects around that general space.

I was working on a project around immunization, trying to map vaccine providers in the United States. But I was doing stuff more on the project management side—dealing more with people who were funding the project, dealing with individual providers who were participating. The longer I stayed with the project, I started doing more and more data things, even just like project analyst stuff—how many people are participating, that kind of thing. So I started getting data skills there, but I would see people working more heavily on the research side, using much more advanced techniques than I could. The more I saw what they could do, the more I wanted to get on that side of the equation.

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I took the self-study approach for a while. Spent about a year trying to teach myself Python on nights and weekends. I was doing various online courses and workshops, and then eventually decided I wanted to take the plunge and go full-time with it.

I’m really interested in this newly forming digital health industry, and all the different ways that we can use data and technology to both improve population health and also how we deliver healthcare. There’s really cool things with new and different ways to interact with a doctor, and new ways to share data across doctors and across providers. As well as helping employers or insurance plans better understand their population and more effectively manage all the diseases they’re managing.

I think probably the biggest pain point in healthcare is the interoperability of allowing data to be shared and transferred across providers, and also letting patients have access to their data. Nobody knows what’s in their medical record, and I think that’s something that could be useful for a lot of people.

When I’m not in class or studying, I’m either trying to be outside and go hiking around the Bay Area, or I’m cooking. I love cooking and baking. If I’m not here, I’m probably doing one of those two things.

I studied anthropology in undergrad. Senior year, I took a class about the global AIDS epidemic. It was really what introduced me to public health as a field, and I immediately knew it was a field I was interested in. I had always been interested in health, but I wasn’t so interested in science or going into medicine. I was really interested in people and culture, so discovering that public health is studying the health of a population and how the systems and cultures that people exist in affect their health, I realized that was exactly what I was interested in. From there, I ended up doing a masters in public health in Boston after I finished college, and that launched me into the career I’ve taken thus far.

I’ve narrowed my capstone project down to two ideas: One idea is trying to look at diet data, so people self-reporting what they eat and trying to parse something out of that. The other is completely not health-related, but it’s doing some kind of recipe recommender. I always say that the hardest part of cooking is deciding what you’re going to make that night, so I was thinking of ideas like, based upon your favorite restaurants, what’s a recipe you might enjoy.

I want my job after Galvanize to be a place where I can continue to learn a lot. So I’m looking for an employer that has a data science team that I can work with, with people more experienced who I can learn from. I want to keep learning, because there’s so much to know and Galvanize can only teach you so much of it.

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