Welcome to the first installment of Profile Fridays where you can hear about exciting work in the fields of science and education directly from the people that are working on them, instead of just reading me making silly jokes with gifs sprinkled in.
Today we hear from Maia Majumder, whose list of accolades in the scientific and data community include contributions to fivethirtyeight.com (link to her article at the end), writing a paper on the anti-vaccination movement causing the 2015 measles outbreak that helped get SB-277 passed in California (paper and LA Times article about the paper linked below), and even having a book published, Ebola’s Message: Public Health and Medicine in the Twenty-First Century. Her work is critical to informed public policy and I am so excited to share her brilliant thoughts with you. Enjoy!
Keough’s Corner: What is your area of expertise in the scientific community?
Maia Majumder: Data science & visualization + statistical & probabilistic computing, especially within the context of public health
KC: What do you love about science?
MM: I love that science is always growing, changing, and improving!
KC: What sparked your interest to enter the scientific field?
MM: My parents are both (immigrant) scientists… ‘Nuff said.
KC: What schooling or training have you gone through to get the position you have today?
MM: I have a BS in Engineering Science and an MPH in Epidemiology & Biostatistics from Tufts. I also have an SM in Engineering Systems and am just finishing up my PhD at MIT.
KC: What can you tell us about your research/job in the scientific community? Why do you find this to be important/worthwhile?
MM: As a public health researcher with a penchant for numbers and pictures, I have the privilege of studying any and all things that hurt or harm my fellow human beings. That not only includes emerging infectious diseases with tremendous pandemic potential (like Ebola and Zika), but also deeply social (and political) issues such as hate crimes and police brutality. By better understanding how these phenomena work (in a scientifically rigorous way), we can do a better job at protecting and preventing!
KC: What do you think should be science’s role in society?
MM: In my opinion, science should inform any and all society-level decision-making.
KC: What is your proudest moment in science?
MM: I’ve had a few. A study that I led a while back helped get SB-277 passed, which was a huge win against the growing anti-vaccination movement in the US. I also had a book come out in October on the West African Ebola outbreak. And more recently, I’ve been freelancing for data-driven outlets like Wired and FiveThirtyEight, which has given me the opportunity to learn how to better translate science (and math) into layspeak.
KC: How can we make science more accessible for the world community at large? Do you even think we need to?
MM: Engagement is everything. Sadly, in academia, we aren’t necessarily incentivized to engage with the public… But one-on-one conversation can — without a doubt — influence individual-level decision-making. Making ourselves more open and accessible to the general public is the first step towards making science more open and accessible, too.
I want to thank Maia so much for taking the time to share her thoughts and work with us, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any follow up questions feel free to post them in the comments below and I will make sure they get to her. If you want to read more about her work check out the links below. Maia’s statistical approach to issues that are often just thought about from a purely emotional standpoint is both refreshing and essential if we have any hope of solving them.
Article on the Measles Outbreak of 2015: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2203906
LA Times coverage of Maia’s article on the Measles Outbreak: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-vaccination-explainer-20170413-story.html
Fivethirtyeight.com Article: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/higher-rates-of-hate-crimes-are-tied-to-income-inequality/
Ebola’s Message: Public Health and Medicine in the Twenty-First Century: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/ebolas-message