Meet the inspirational Liverpool Hope University student who’s on a mission to empower more women to take up a career in data science.
What’s more, Nikita Silaparasetty has also just published a beginner-friendly new book that attempts to demystify the world of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Nikita, 23, is currently studying for a Masters in Data Science at Hope. having begun her programme in January this year.
And Nikita is in the unusual position of having already published her first book on the subject - Machine Learning Concepts with Python and the Jupyter Notebook Environment: Using Tensorflow 2.0.
She says it’s a text written for those new to the concepts of AI, designed to ‘break down the barriers’ to programming for machine learning.
Meanwhile enthusiastic Nikita, from Bangalore, India, is also head of the India-based ‘AI For Women’ initiative, which boasts 400 members and aims to encourage females into this competitive field.
Speaking about the book, Nikita explains: “I’ve grown to realise that there are certain elements of data science that may sound simple for those in the field.
“But for those just starting out a lot of these things are very confusing and very complicated.
“A lot of the books out there on the subject are also too technical, too difficult to understand.
“I was fortunate - I had my dad to guide me, someone who works in this profession.
“But others who don’t have a mentor might struggle to study this subject on their own - which is why I thought I’d write a book which is very simple and can be understood, as far as possible, by beginners, and at the same time introduces them to new concepts.
“It will hopefully get people started, and help them transition to more complicated science.”
The AI For Women group Nikita founded, along with her sister, is also dedicated to opening doors for those who need a gentle nudge.
She adds: “There are relatively less women in the field compared with men, and I wanted to do something to encourage other women to come forward and either study or take part.
“We started with a few meet-ups in Bangalore, offering some basic training and to give women a real idea about what Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are.
“And now I’m also hoping to set up some online meet-ups here in the UK, too.
“I think people sometimes need a little push so that they can move forward and do amazing things in the field. That’s what I hope to do.
“There’s a quote I like from Italian author St Catherine of Siena which reads, ‘Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire’.
“I like to encourage AI enthusiasts with these words, because I know that each one has something to contribute, and each contribution can make a difference in the world.”
So what is data science, and why is it important?
Dr Mark Greenwood, from Hope’s School of Mathematics and Computer Science, says a good practical application of the subject is how e-commerce platforms might build recommender systems that stimulate purchases.
On Netflix, for instance, data science algorithms suggest films or TV programmes that you might want to watch, based on your viewing habits, with very good accuracy.
And as Nikita is aware, employees with specialties in both Data Science and Security are in high demand across the globe - with a recent global information security workforce study suggesting there could be around 100,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the UK by 2022.
Nikita adds: “The field is advancing rapidly. Within a short span of time something new will pop up to challenge you, so it’s an amazing environment to learn, and a lot of fun.
“You will have to work hard, as a lot of practice is needed to become good at programming.
“But there are so many ways to contribute to the industry and so many great things can come from this field. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested.”
Nikita is currently working on her dissertation, which concerns ‘deep learning’ techniques for image recognition.
And it could have some powerful real-world applications.
She reveals: “I’ve been working on a facemask detection programme, which I feel could be very useful right now, especially at a time where we need to make sure people are taking necessary precautions.
“The ‘computer vision’ programme can scan a video and identify when someone is not wearing a facemask, so that we can intervene.
“It’s not a new idea, but I do hope I can improve on the current techniques.”
Remarkably, Nikita is also a published poet. Her book Penchant, published in India, was a collection of poems written between the ages of six and 13.
** To find out more about studying for a MSc in Data Science, head .
*** To learn more about Hope’s newly-revealed Post Graduate Certificate in Data Science and Security, go .