Local & State

DataAware introduces high school students to health data analytics

Students from high schools throughout the Triangle traveled to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus this summer to learn about data science.

Instead of hanging with friends or binging on Netflix, 10 high school students spent part of their summers analyzing data and tackling health care challenges through the DataAware program hosted by the Carolina Health Informatics Program.

DataAware, short for Data Analytics for Teen Advancement: Applications in the Workforce and Academics with Research Experience, ran for six weeks from July 8 to Aug. 16. Students from various high schools in the Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh area traveled to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus each weekday to learn about health data analytics, digital health technology, machine learning, real-world problem solving and academic research.

Supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, DataAware loaned each participant a laptop, equipped with the needed software and data sets, and provided a $1,000 stipend. Students received intensive training through classroom instruction, field trips to companies and organizations working in health data analytics, and mentorship from faculty experts, who helped them develop research projects that they presented on the final day of the workshop.

Devesh Kasireddy, a rising junior of Granville High School in Cary, had a great time exploring the various aspects of data science and learning about cutting-edge topics such as Virtual Reality applications for health care.

“This was a really unique program to me,” he said. “Usually, there’s stuff about pharmacy and medicine available, but data science is a new field, and I felt that if I had experience in this field, then I can apply it to many different fields. That will be useful for me in the future.”

Mika Wang, a health informatics doctoral student and instructor for DataAware, said the experience and career insights offered by the program should help students navigate their futures. Wang said the analytic skills, “the ability to read critically, think critically and approach a question from a research perspective” would also be valuable.

Fei Yu, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science and a health technology and informatics librarian at the Health Science Library, served as one of the program’s faculty mentors. Yu said she was impressed by the level of interest and commitment the students demonstrated.

“These high school students are so dedicated to their research projects,” she said. “I can see many of them wanting to go beyond this time and continue to work with mentors and professors. This makes me feel what I did for this DataAware boot camp was meaningful.”

Yu is working to arrange an internship so she and DataAware student Bhargava Kolli can continue their analysis of the opioid crisis in the U.S., specifically how industry, government, and health care organizations have responded. Several other students also plan to continue working on their research topics beyond the six weeks of the program.