PDH and Orion Health are proud to have Ning as one of our intermediate data scientists. She began her career journey in China as a student studying general biology, and went on to get her PhD in ecology. Within her PhD, she did some statistical analysis, which led her to explore programming and after moving to New Zealand in 2016, she chose to follow this career path. “I started to find programming quite interesting and decided to pursue this. I began online education such as Python to teach myself more in this area,” said Ning.
After receiving her Master of Information Technology at the University of Auckland, she gained an internship with PDH and is now employed full-time by Orion Health and PDH. According to Ning, due to the nature of her work, she is constantly learning and being challenged. “My job is challenging because we are always seeking higher accuracy, higher performance metrics for predictive modeling, which means we try out different modeling techniques. It’s good because I’m always learning while aiming to improve on the efficiency of my code in model fine-tuning,” she says.
Ning’s most prolific work was assisting with the COVID-19 pandemic response work led by Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM). She worked tirelessly with other teams to develop mathematical modeling, analyse data and deliver results to the New Zealand Government in order to inform its response to the global pandemic. Ning said she jumped at the opportunity to work on this project when it was offered to her in mid-March 2020.
The results of this work were translated for Government policymakers and front-line operators. The 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize was awarded to Ning and the other researchers, which she described as a profound moment for her. In addition to this award, Ning was also given the Orion Health Employee Recognition Award for her COVID-19 modeling work, and being identified as a ‘data scientist of national significance’ by Statistics NZ.
She continues to support TPM by working on the COVID-10 surveillance reporting which takes the current rollout of the vaccine into account. Moreover, she is working on building a triage support system based on Waitematā District Health Board (WDHB) patient records to prioritise GP referrals, as well as developing a recommendation system for an app that promotes mental health and wellbeing.
Her advice for those considering a career in information technology is simple: “If you’re already considering it, then you’ve already made the right step. If the slightest part of you is interested in pursuing a career in information technology, find out as much as you can and jump for it! Attend the career expos and events, and get as much advice as you need from the professionals you bump into”.