Social Impact Internships: Suki Zhang (’22)

Data Modernization in the Fight Against COVID-19
Suki outside MIT’s Great Dome

I always thought about how my technical background could be utilized to make social change. I found the answer through the PKG internship program. This summer, I am interning on the Data Strategy team at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Services’ [Medicaid Program], or MassHealth for short. One of my projects is recommending additional COVID-19 test sites in MA. Working with another PKG intern (super exciting!), my responsibility is to draw insight from the many datasets on MA and COVID-19 and make appropriate recommendations. The project is daunting, and it is real-world sensitive. I have been seeing COVID-19 news everywhere for months, and I know just how dire the situation is. Before, when I wanted to do more to help in the fight, I got overwhelmed by my own limitations in making change. Through MassHealth, I was lucky to be trusted with a platform to help in this fight. 

In the beginning, it was definitely a bit of a challenge to dive right into the work, but as I scanned through the resources, the data pointed me towards the right solutions. As an aspiring data scientist, I am always looking for more opportunities to do real-world analyses. With this project, I was not only granted the opportunity to grow in my field, but I also experienced integrating my other identity as a social steward into my professional career. 

I personally believe that one of the best innovations of our era is the modernization of data collection. Data, no matter how niche or scattered, serve as puzzle pieces in understanding the world. Through the data in this project, I was able to see the numbers behind social issues. Health inequities, lack of accessibility to resources… all of this came to light through data.  Analyses then highlight the holes causing these challenges, which allows for more pinpointed and effective change to be made. This project has shown me the framework for carrying out social change in my field. 

At MIT, where students and faculty sit at the cutting edge of innovation, my mind was always filled with thoughts about the “next big thing.” This internship allowed me to take a step back, to see that my education is not exclusive to pushing the bounds of knowledge– my education can also be used to tackle issues underserved by STEM. I am now more confident in my abilities to give back to the community.  

Looking to fulfill your fall Experiential Learning Opportunity (ELO)? Check out PKG Social Impact Internships page to learn more about where to find opportunities and how to apply! 

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Tags: COVID Relief, Social Impact Internships, Tech for Good

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