As a dancer, fourth-year Honors student Emily Truong has seen countless injuries around her. She wanted to study dance and biology on a pre-medicine track and become a doctor. However, after exploring the field of data science, Truong learned about the large-scale impact she can make on the healthcare industry through data and was inspired to double major in dance and data science.
“[During my first year] I took all these math classes … and I was looking into which pathways use a lot of math,” says Truong. She also shadowed data scientists at a financial technology firm and self-taught herself Python the summer before college. “I thought [data science] could be an interesting pathway to go through, so I started taking some data science classes and realized that I really liked it.”
Truong shared that her experience of touring UCI was memorable and unique compared to other schools she toured, which is one of the reasons she decided to attend UCI.
“One thing I remembered about UCI was my campus tour guide said that UCI was the first school to reverse boil an egg,” she says. “I thought [UCI] was really pretty and calm.”
Truong is also minoring in bioinformatics and says research is a big part of her time at UCI — research is how she blends her passion for medicine with data. Since her second year, Truong has worked with health researchers as a research assistant in Informatics Professor Kai Zheng’s lab. She is also a student manager and supervises fellow student researchers in the lab.
She is especially proud of a yearlong study she worked on that examined pre- and post-COVID-19 opioid overdoses, which will be published and presented in April at the UC Real-World Evidence Conference. Currently, Truong is working with UCI Health’s All of Us database to gather information on patient recruitment in clinical trials.
“Join clubs and organizations; a lot of research positions are passed down that way. … Networking is [also] really important,” she says, adding that contacting professors directly and reading emails from the ICS Student Affairs Office are other ways to find openings in research labs.
Outside of her data science classes and research at UCI, Truong is part of the engineering fraternity Theta Tau, where she created a gesture-controlled automated curtain with her fraternity brothers. This past summer, she interned at Kaiser Permanente and worked with data on hypertension, heart attack and stroke outcomes, and suicide prevention.
Truong has spent the second half of her college career focused on research and learning more about data science to prepare herself for a career in data science. Her double major in dance and data science helps her balance the stress and demands of her math and computer science classes because she enjoys the creativity, stimulation and exercise in her dance classes.
“After I come out of computer science class, I’m like ‘oh, I’m so tired,’ but after I go to dance class … it boosts my energy,” says Truong. “It’s a really nice balance.”
When she graduates, Truong hopes to continue dancing recreationally. Many of the soft skills she applies to her research and internship experience in data science come from dancing, which she has been doing since she was 5 years old. She says her work ethic, time-management and planning skills and creativity all come from dancing.
With a busy school schedule, Truong turns to a few activities and hobbies to de-stress. She is part of a dance team on campus called Project Renegade and the sorority Tri Delta, and enjoys attending dance performances on campus to support her peers. She also likes to spend time with her friends and crochet — her most recent creation is a frog.
Truong is interested in careers in data science that will allow her to “influence people” and “improve lives at scale.” Her internship at Kaiser Permanente has also inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in data science and a role in predictive analysis.
“One of the things that brought me into data science was realizing that I could do a lot of work behind the scenes and actually impact a lot of people at once,” she says.
— Karen Phan