Celebrating Black Data Scientists
In honor of Black History Month, February 2022
Jenea I. Adams
Devoted to promoting black women in computational biology, Jenea Adams is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania in the Perelman School of Medicine's Genomics and Computational Biology program. She is a member of the Yi Xing Lab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Computational and Genomic Medicine.
A Janssen Oncology Scholar, Penn Presidential PhD Fellow, and a dual Master's Student in Statistics and Data Science, Ms. Adams is experienced in developing and improving computational tools that leverage RNA biology for targeted cancer immunotherapy, and she is a recognized community advocate for minoritized computational biologists.
Her doctoral research explores the development of new genomics and bioinformatics tools, informed by RNA biology, to improve cancer treatment options with targeted immunotherapies. During her rotation, she employed computational tools developed in the lab (e.g., rMATS, IRIS) to investigate alternative splicing in pediatric and adult Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) data to reveal novel targets of CAR-T cell receptor-mediated immunotherapy. Currently, she focuses on the development of reproducible and scalable computational tools to interrogate the context-specific disease presentation of pediatric AML. She uses existing and novel splicing paradigms with integrated multi-omic analysis for the identification of targetable therapies on a personalized scale.
In addition to her scholarship, Ms. Adams founded The Black Women in Computational Biology Network, an intersectional community of Black women who are working toward (or interested in) a career that combines computational and quantitative sciences with Biology.
Emery N. Brown
Emery Neal Brown is an American statistician, neuroscientist, and anesthesiologist. He is the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a practicing anesthesiologist at MGH. At MIT, he is the Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and professor of computational neuroscience, the Associate Director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Director of the Harvard–MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology.
In 2015, Brown was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering for the development of neural signal processing algorithms for understanding memory encoding and modeling of brain states of anesthesia. Brown is one of only 19 individuals who has been elected to all three branches of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as the first African American and the first anesthesiologist to be elected to all three National Academies.
Brown has published widely on topics in Computational Neuroscience and Anesthesiology, including: measuring time on the human biological clock, deciphering brain signals, and the nature of general anesthesia. Brown is the principal investigator of the Neuroscience Statistics Research Laboratory at MGH and MIT, where he currently conducts his research.
Dr. Ruth Agbakoba is currently based as an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London, Institute of Health Informatics and serves as a STEM Ambassador and mentor for young underrepresented girls across the United Kingdom. Her current interests are in promoting equity and diversity in academia, translational research (translating research findings into practice) and Global eHealth policy to foster person-centered care. She co-founded Black in Data, an organization dedicated to fostering community, offering professional development opportunities and ultimately elevating the voices of Black people in data science.
Dr. Agbakoba has a rich background working at the forefront of innovation leading on the evaluation of Scotland’s First National Digital Health and Wellbeing Service at Scale and the UK’s First AI supported EHR integrated Clinical Trials Discovery Platform at University College London Hospital. Her doctoral research combined her passion for Implementation Science, Healthcare and Technology with a focus on identifying contextual factors affecting the upscaling of new innovations to improve patient care.
Findings from Dr. Agbakoba's research have helped to inform UK Government policy, healthcare leaders and change agents. For her research she was awarded the first prize at the 15th World Congress on Digital Health and Biomedical Informatics in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Furthermore, she is a recipient of Canada’s prestigious McGill University Visiting Scholar Fellowship in the Chronic Disease and Health Informatics Research Laboratory. Her notable works have been presented at the Kings Fund Digital Health and Care Congress in London, UK, the British Computer Society Scotland National Conference in Edinburgh, the North American Primary Care Research Group in New York and the IEEE International Conference on Health Informatics in Verona, Italy.
Yeshimabeit Milner is the co-founder and executive director of Data 4 Black Lives, which is a movement of activists, organizers, and mathematicians committed to the mission of using data science to create concrete and measurable change in the lives of Black people. Milner is an established movement builder and campaign organizer.
In 2013 at age 22, after returning to Miami after college, Milner started working with the Power U Center for Social Change and looking at Black infant mortality rates locally in trying to understand why they were disproportionately so high. They were able to retrieve data from 300 moms, and as a result change local policy.
One of her classmates at Brown University was mathematician Lucas Mason-Brown: together, they founded Data for Black Lives in November 2017. The Data for Black Lives (D4BL) annual conference was started in 2018 by Yeshimabeit Milner, Lucas Mason-Brown, and Max Clermont. They use the slogan, "Abolish Big Data!" with hopes to redesign big data and to “put data into the hands of those who need it most.” In 2020, the group was able to compile state-level data about the impact of COVID-19 on Black people and are working on compiling a nationwide database of technologies used by police departments. In 2021, Milner co-wrote a research piece for Demos on algorithmic racism from Big Tech companies.
Milner serves on the board of the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. In 2018, she was awarded a Roddenberry Foundation Fellowship, which honors and invests in extraordinary people who can change the world. In 2020, Data for Black Lives and its founders were awarded the Forbes 30 Under 30 and the New York Times 2020 Good Tech Awards.