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Excited, overwhelmed, supported


By Elliot Karikari, Data Scientist

My first month at LIDA

When was the last time you went on an adventure? I mean packed your bags, booked a one-way ticket to another part of the world, and just took off? Though I’m not in the exact same position, the range of emotions I have gone through this month could be comparable. September marked the start of my role as Data Scientist at the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) Data Science Development Programme (DSDP). I was excited, nervous, and overwhelmed, but through everything I am supported.


My journey to my master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the University of Leeds far exceeded my expectations. I was ushered into the world of Spatial Data Analytics and since then, have grown excited about the work being done. Understanding how location affects decisions and how human behaviour impacts the provision and location of services gives me a bit of a thrill! Towards the end of my masters, I knew that I wanted work centred around my values, People, Growth and Solutions.

This led me to LIDA’s, Data Scientist Development Programme, which I stumbled upon on Twitter, (I follow a bunch of my tutors lol). LIDA’s mission statement “The fundamental goal for our research is to build foundations for a future where the utilisation of data is a major driver of prosperity and well-being” resonated with my values. It further excited me that this opportunity would allow me to immediately build upon the skills I acquired during the past year. I am currently working on a project which requires me to clean and analyse approximately 600 GB of data using Python and SQL. Equal parts exciting and nerve racking.

Nervous & overwhelmed

The first month at LIDA was nerve-wracking and overwhelming. I was nervous because I wanted to be good at my tasks, put my best foot forward (new song out now!) and really wanted to do my best. I was nervous because I was thrust into a new environment and felt overpowered by the realisation that I had to be much better if I wanted to produce the kind of results I desired. So far, I have been working on getting a firm understanding of “Routing Behaviour” and building up my coding skills (Python) as both are important for the work to be done. Though overwhelmed, I have also felt supported.


Support has been immense, and I will always be grateful. My project team always have my back and I can always count on the staff I’ve encountered during the onboarding process and members of my cohort to assist me when I ask or need it. Everyone has been lovely and warm. The working environment is excellent. I get to work from “home first” which is awesome! I enjoyed my first buddy catch-up meeting with Kylie! Looking forward to the next one! I also love that there is a Wednesday Coffee Morning meeting where I can interact with people involved in other aspects of LIDA.

It’s been barely a month, but I have already learned skills I believe I would keep with me for a long time. Skills like replacing judgement with curiosity in conversation. I interpret curiosity here as questioning my feeling to be more understanding of another person’s view rather than having a ready response. I believe at the end of this year; I’ll be better as a person and as a data scientist.

My Project

For the next six months, I’ll be researching the decisions individuals make when deciding travel routes. How does a person’s environment influence the decisions he or she makes when travelling from one location to another? Are there environmental (internal – music played while driving & external – landmarks) factors that impact driving decisions? These are some of the questions that our investigation on travel patterns hopes to answer.

The knowledge gained from these trends would aid in the development of real-world data-driven strategies for lowering carbon emissions and city congestion, among other things. The data being analysed was collected from 50,000 “connected” vehicles across the United Kingdom. Though I am enthusiastic to see what the data analysis may bring, I can safely say that the most of my time will be spent cleaning this data and transforming it into a usable format for future research. Exciting!!

Find out more about the Data Scientist Development Programme