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Data Doctors

Submitted on Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Two Class of ‘22 PhD grads are putting their data expertise to work in very different ways 

Niel Chah 

Thesis Title: Data Profiling, Machine Learning, and Data Visualizations for a Multilingual Crowdsourced Knowledge Graph: The Case of Wikidata 

Supervisor: Associate Professor Periklis Andritsos 

Current Position: Data Scientist with Microsoft’s Gaming Group 

Niel Chah moved from political science to data science after taking a course on applying computational techniques to data and deciding he preferred the techier side of things. As a first step, he completed a Master of Information in Information Systems and Design where he met his future doctoral supervisor, Associate Professor Periklis Andritsos. 

While Chah was working on his PhD, a recruiter contacted him about doing an internship at Microsoft in Seattle. They were looking for someone with his computational profile to work with the company’s gaming group, he says. At the time, he was “on the fence” about whether he wanted a career in academia or industry. “If it wasn’t for the internships probably still be debating,” says Chah who did both a 2019 internship in Seattle and a remote internship from Toronto in 2020. 

Niel Chat at Microsoft's South Korea offices

Niel Chah visiting. the Microsoft Korea offices in Seoul 

His Xbox team is based in Redmond, Washington but Chah works remotely from his hometown of Vancouver, where his family lives. As part of the data science group within gaming, he’s involved in natural language processing, using statistical techniques and models to help Xbox understand what users are saying. 

While he was not much of a gamer himself, as an applied data scientist he “kind of gets paid to game” and has to keep with the latest platforms and new features. 

Katie Mackinnon 

Thesis Title: Databound: Histories of Growing Up on the World Wide Web 

Supervisor: Professor Leslie Shade 

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow in Community Data at UofT’s Critical Digital Humanities Institute (CDHI) 

Katie Mackinnon’s research looks at the early uses and experiences of young people in the late 1990s-early 2000s who were “growing up online”. She takes a patchwork approach that draws from web archives, oral interviews, policy and news media. She also writes about ethical approaches to historical and web archival research and youth data, as well as social, infrastructural and policy issues of the web. 

“I’ve always been interested in the internet, having spent a lot of time there myself while growing up. I was originally interested in researching youth culture histories but the opportunity to study web-born materials sparked something in me during my MA at UWaterloo and I ran with it,” she said in an interview with CDHI. 

Katie Mackinnon is happy to stay in Toronto and keep close to the Faculty of Information, her “home” for the past five years

The CDHI Postdoctoral Fellows in Community Data is a two-year interdisciplinary program focusing on projects that enact equitable, future-focused strategies of preserving data related to the histories of people of colour, Indigenous peoples, and queer, disabled, or other communities whose work, experiences, and perspectives have been insufficiently recognized or inequitably attended to in historical records. The fellowship is part of the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Community Data program.