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University of Michigan School of Information


Faces of UMSI: Brooke Hawkins

Brooke Hawkins is bringing her affinity for ecology to UMSI as a Masters of Applied Data Science (MADS) student.

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s in ecology from University of California San Diego (UCSD), Brooke worked with fisheries data to analyze and predict responses to climate change. She started this research as a student at UCSD and continued it as an intern for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

Brooke Hawkins hiking on a trail

Brooke is earning her UMSI degree from her home in Seattle, Washington. She’s no stranger to online courses after taking MOOCS to supplement her work as a student at UCSD. The MADS program first entered her radar through the Python Specialization on Coursera. Brooke was intrigued by its online nature, which she thought would complement her existing scientific skills set and previous on-campus graduate experience. 

She noted, “by comparison, I liked that online programs were more application-oriented, and more flexible. They also have a more diverse student body, of people already working in many industries with different levels of experience.”

Data science interests Brooke because she enjoys analysis, building models and testing hypotheses to solve problems. She said, “Although I did this as a researcher, the impact was more abstract. I am looking forward to working in industry, where the answers I find will help guide decisions.”

In her first year of studies, Brooke has found her courses to be both challenging and engaging. She’s currently enrolled in 503 Data Ethics, 516 Efficient Data Processing and 521 Visual Exploration of Data. She noted that she “likes the balance of writing about ethical case studies, using distributed computing systems like spark and programming exploratory data visualizations.”

To supplement coursework, Brooke is seeking an internship in Seattle’s tech world. UMSI’s Career Development Office (CDO) has been helping her navigate the process. Brooke has “been pleasantly surprised by the career support that UM provides to MADS students. Our program has a designated advisor, and this year since most events are virtual, we have access to all the same recruiting events that on-campus students do.”

She continued, “I even got funding to go to Grace Hopper, which was a great opportunity to meet with companies and recruiters. I have had multiple interviews already, and I feel very supported throughout the job search process.”

Brooke’s advice to those interested in applying to UMSI is to talk to current students about their experiences. She’s staying in touch with her cohort by talking on Slack and participating in channels for interests groups, like the MADS book club.

After logging offline, Brooke enjoys taking rainy hikes around the Seattle area.