CS major Babba Jaden ’20 conducted research at Harvard University this past summer, analyzing data for their Data-Smart City Solutions initiative.
“Smart” Cities and Data Analytics
Babba Jaden ’20, a computer science (CS) major at Elms, is something like a 21st-century explorer, experimenting on the frontiers of data analytics. His skill with CS netted him a $15,000 fellowship from Summer@Station1, a nonprofit that pairs students with startups, research labs, and think tanks in the Boston area.
Babba spent the summer working as an intern at Data-Smart City Solutions. This initiative — which is part of Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation — gave him first hand experience with the emerging field of urban science and technology.
“I’m writing reports for researchers at Data-Smart, giving them feedback on which cities are implementing technology,” Babba said. “It’s more technical, which is something I like … It’s more data analytics and data structures.”
For a city to become “smart,” civic leaders need to creatively use data to guide their decision making. This involves analyzing datasets to discover patterns, predict trends, and address issues before they occur. When average citizens get involved and share their data, society as a whole benefits.
“The data they collect from sensors, cameras — they need to have it open to everyone else so they can view it and add input,” Babba said. “Or, if there is something wrong in the community, a citizen can take a picture of it, then send it to the government and their officials, so that they can respond to the issue right away.”
“Having that civil engagement with the community and government builds a strong bond,” he added.
One of the cities that Babba researched was Dallas, TX. After analyzing data on the rates of cat and dog attacks in the city, he produced a heat map showing how dangerous different streets and parks are for pedestrians. Titled “Big Data Solutions in Smart Cities,” his project emphasizes the advantages of using applied technology and analytics to improve the quality of life in communities.
The Path to a Ph.D.
Although Summer@Station1 introduced Babba to frontier science, this isn’t the first time that he has charted new territory in his life.
When he was younger, Babba and his family fled from Ethiopia to come to the U.S. As a refugee, he attended Fugees Academy in Columbus, OH. The academy — which focuses exclusively on educating refugees — didn’t graduate its first class of seniors until 2016. As part of this inaugural class of graduates, Babba become a pioneer, crossing frontier after academic frontier.
He is the first in his family to go to college. He is one of the first graduates of Fugees Academy to attend college. He is also on track to become the first graduate of the academy to earn his Ph.D.
At Elms, Babba distinguished himself as a student athlete. In addition to earning a National Science Foundation grant as an ElmSTEM scholar, he was named 2017 NECC Player of the Year as a forward for the men’s soccer team.
“Elms has prepared me as a student to look beyond what’s out there, at what opportunities I can try so that I can improve my career and have an open mind,” he said. “Being a CS major at Elms really helped me in this summer program.”
At the Forefront of Computer Science
As a Summer@Station1 research fellow, Babba attended seminars, speeches, and workshops, all of which emphasized inventive approaches to STEM research that promote a socially conscious, equitable future.
“We had a speaker who lectured on problem solving,” he said. “The main point of the lecture was: If you spend more time defining the problem or getting to the root of the problem, you have a better understanding of how to fix it. That was very exciting to hear and learn about. It was something I never would have thought about on my own.”
A weeklong workshop on leadership also introduced him to a coterie of fellow STEM enthusiasts.
“We were here for at least 10 hours a day, just connecting and bonding,” he said.
Each Summer@Station1 research fellow has a partner with whom they collaborate at their internship. Babba’s partner at Data-Smart was Alina Gavrilov, a sophomore humanitarian engineering major at Baylor University in Texas. Babba and Alina collaborated with Katherine Hillenbrand (Data-Smart City Solutions) and Christina Marchand and Daniel Fisher (Harvard University’s Ash Center)
“It has been a great opportunity to work with Alina and get to know her,” Babba said. Comparing his experiences as a CS major with students from other colleges and universities broadened his perspective, too, he added.
When you add it all up, the long hours of data computation, progressive seminar discussions, and professional network building gave Babba a clear sense of direction for his career.
“Being here has given me more of an idea about what I should do next, what the big next move in my life is,” he said. “I’m thinking about grad school or research opportunities that I can also get into, just to expand my knowledge of computer science.”
Do you like working with computers? Are you interested in using technology to solve real-world problems? If so, the new computer science major at Elms College can set you on the right path. Contact us or schedule a campus visit to learn more.