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Masters in Data Science Student TY Shao Aims to Make an Impact in Healthcare

April 1, 2022

Technological advancements are a major reason why the healthcare industry is a field that can constantly evolve to support the ever-changing needs of patients. One of these technologies is data science, which TY Shao believes can spur beneficial discoveries and change in healthcare.

Shao is a graduate student and program ambassador of UCI’s Master of Data Science program and plans to utilize her data science education in healthcare because the medical field “is really close to [her] heart.”

“My dad passed away from advanced kidney cancer when I was young. When he initially started feeling discomfort, doctors did not immediately suspect that it was cancer since he was a relatively healthy man so by the time he was officially diagnosed, it was already too late as he had entered the later stages of cancer,” says Shao.

This experience is what motivates Shao to spend her time in the MDS program and beyond participating in cancer research to “impact and revolutionize the healthcare industry.”

“I intend to use the tools of data science to help expedite life-saving diagnoses to cancer patients and improve overall patient care,” says Shao. “I am interested in working on cancer research throughout my career as a data scientist so that I can help other families who are also afflicted by this disease.”

Her passion and interests in the medical field extend beyond her research and professional goals as well.

“I also enjoy exercising and working out because I think it’s incredibly important to be active and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The experiences I’ve had throughout my life encouraged me to prioritize and value my physical health,” says Shao.

Before joining the MDS program, Shao turned her love for math into an academic pursuit at the University of California, Riverside. She majored in statistics because it’s a discipline that has “many real-world applications,” and in her undergraduate studies, Shao learned about the field of data science. Shao knew UCI would be the perfect school for furthering her interests in this industry.

“Being one of the few professional programs in the UC system that offered a graduate degree solely in the field of data science, UCI easily became my top choice for the school where I wanted to conduct my graduate studies,” Shao says. “I always had an affinity toward the UC system, having grown up in Southern California, since it is both close to home and offers a great educational experience.”

Shao enjoys her experience in the MDS program; she says the coursework taught by her professors is enriching and “beneficial to [her] development as a data scientist.” She also loves learning alongside her peers.

“I have also enjoyed meeting and bonding with the classmates in my cohort who also share my passion for data science,” she says. “From this program, I am hoping to gain the necessary skills and connections that will be deeply integrated into my career.”

In addition to achieving her professional goals in the MDS program, Shao hopes to leverage her ambassadorship position to encourage women to pursue studies and careers in the data science field.

She says that in her experience as a woman studying statistics, she is part of a minority group and her male classmates often overshadow her. To Shao, it’s important that more women enter data science and other STEM fields and bring in unique perspectives that do not exist in male-dominated spaces.

“Women have so much to offer to the industry and can provide additional perspectives and approaches to problems that are not considered by their male peers,” says Shao. “As an ambassador for the MDS program, I am hoping to provide women with more exposure to the field of data science and to encourage them to also become involved in the development and advancement of this discipline.”

With a number of ambitions and commitments, life can be stressful, so Shao shared some activities she likes to do to de-stress and have fun with her family and friends.

“Outside of school, I enjoy cooking and baking as these are activities I find to be extremely therapeutic and rewarding,” says Shao. “Food is something that connects all types of people and brings different cultures together. I love showing my appreciation towards my close friends and family members by making meals or baking delicious treats for them.”

As the spring quarter begins, that also means Shao’s first year in the MDS program nears its end and her second year will begin soon. Shao wants to make the most of her education by gaining professional working experience and applying what she has learned “to a practical real-world setting.”

“From there, I am hoping to acquire enough experience and knowledge so that I am eventually able to make significant contributions to cancer research,” she says. “I would like to establish my career as a data scientist in the healthcare field as it is one that I am immensely passionate about.”

— Karen Phan