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Leading Change with Data Science & Society - A Bold New Path: Ditmer

Date:07 February 2024
Ditmer de Heer, first year student of the BSc Data Science & Society programme
Ditmer de Heer, first year student of the BSc Data Science & Society programme

In our BSc Data Science & Society programme, students are pioneers who push boundaries and shape our future! Ever wondered what drives them to choose such a cutting-edge path? Starting this February, we dive into this question with the series "Leading Change with Data Science - A Bold New Path." Each month, DSS students will share their motivation for joining and envision real-world applications of the lessons learned. Stay tuned for a new post every month, starting today with Ditmer's perspective!

Hi, Ditmer! Thanks for joining us in this new blog series. Would you like to share what initially sparked your interest in the programme Data Science & Society?

While searching for a Bachelor’s programme, I was looking for something that was either technical or future-oriented. When it came to the first, I struggled to find a programme that went beyond the technical, for instance by incorporating the societal dimension.

That being said, I have to admit that I joined this programme after first coming across the Global Responsibility & Leadership programme, which, however, I found too broad for my interest. That led me to check out the Campus Fryslân website, where I stumbled upon the Data Science & Society Programme. "This", I thought, "is a perfect match."

What influenced your decision to pursue this field over more conventional ones (i.e. law, medicine, international business)?

I remember excluding bachelor's in Biology and Chemistry because they were solely focused on those specific domains. As a person, I am more of a ‘system viewer’, for example when I look at biology, I see the science of it but I also see the ecological and social aspects. I’m simply not a one-topic type of person. That's why I found the combination of the ethical aspects and the technical parts of the data science & society programme so interesting!

❝ I’m simply not a one-topic type of person. That's why I found the combination of the ethical aspects and the technical parts of the data science & society programme so interesting! ❞

How did you weigh the pros and cons of choosing Data Science & Society against more traditional studies?

Personally, the pros for me were the multidisciplinarity of the programme, which allows us to cover various facets of data science. On top of that, the 'intimacy' of a small campus made a difference, although I can see why this might be a con for some. The only 'con' that came to my mind was that it was only the second year of the programme’s existence (but I suppose that's what makes us pioneers!).

Do you feel that current events, like the pandemic, influenced your perspective or determination to pursue this particular path?

If we're specifically discussing the pandemic, then I would say that the emergence of QR codes and mobile apps altered my view on technology’s role. It shifted from being, to a certain extent, a choice, to becoming a necessity in some countries, particularly as a solution during the crisis. This reshaped how I perceive technology’s societal impact. 

Did your family have reservations or expectations about your choice of Data Science & Society? If so, how did you navigate them?

To be honest, not really. My parents were very supportive of my choices. They slightly preferred that I would go to a research university, because of my high school education. However, I do know that they would have still accepted it if I had chosen to go to an applied sciences university, or hogeschool. In any case, there wasn't any friction between my parents and I. They understand the challenges that lie ahead and want to be sure that I have a viable career path. The real challenge for me was finding a specific programme that aligned with what I wanted, because I did not have a clear direction in mind.

How do you envision making an impact in society through your chosen field?

That’s sort of the reason why I chose the programme. In high school, I took philosophy classes and really enjoyed the module on ethics. With the emergence of AI, the importance of ethics for our future became ever more obvious to me. I believe it is our responsibility to safeguard established ethical standards in the development of AI and other emerging technologies.

In terms of application, I would like to use data to analyze areas of the climate crisis in order to contribute to finding solutions. Next to that, I want to use my skills in the field of ethics associated with world challenges, especially those that are not strictly economy-related.

Has the programme lived up to your expectations thus far?

So far, the programme pleasantly surprised me. It wasn’t exactly how I expected, but in a positive way! Its multidisciplinary nature, with my current courses like human rights and the governance course, complemented the technical side, which was exactly what I was looking for. 

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