A new addition to the team

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Time flies when you are having fun. It has already been 3 months since I started as a data scientist at Data4Development in November 2019. Since then I have worked on interesting questions, met wonderful people and learned a lot.

In the coming weeks/months I will be telling you about some of the things I have been doing, but before I do that, allow me to properly introduce myself.

Originally, my background is in chemistry: after obtaining my masters in Chemical Engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, I went on to pursue a PhD in the field of Theoretical Chemistry at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. There I ran computer calculations, for example to improve our understanding of how the anti-cancer drug Taxol is produced in an enzyme. 

How does one go from computer calculations of molecules to being a data scientist for nonprofits you might wonder.

Actually the step to becoming a data scientist wasn’t a very big one. During my PhD I was used to working with large amounts of data, which I analysed using self-written scripts, mainly in Python. Then, when analyzing data, it does not matter that much whether the data is about a chemical reaction, or about patients in a hospital, as was the case in my first data science job, in the academic hospital in Utrecht (UMCU). As the data science team of the psychiatric department of the UMCU we tried to use patient data to improve the health care in the department. Being one of the first teams to do this in a hospital setting, we ran into issues with unlocking the data and improving data quality, but also had to consider things like change management within the department.

All this prepared me for the work I am doing at Data4Development: Just like in the healthcare sector, the nonprofit world has gathered enormous amounts of data. Data about projects, finance and results. However, only 5% of the nonprofits use data to make informed decisions. This means there is a lot of potential there. But also here, the data needs to be unlocked, the quality (often) needs to be improved and organizations need to change to become more data driven. I am excited to use my experience to help organizations use data to increase their social impact. 

If your organization can use a hand in difficult technical areas such as: IT, IATI or information management. Or you want to start using data to make more data driven decisions, reach out to me or the other members of the D4D team.