Making Data Meaningful

Whether it be for a community project to determine which water is safe for drinking, or a hospital-based project to determine the most efficient and effective ways to treat mental illness, Trishla Shah is an expert in taking the data we collect so easily today, and making them meaningful.

As the IT research scientist at the Nova Scotia Community College and a PhD candidate in computer science at Dalhousie University, Shah focuses on designing solutions by analyzing massive amounts of data. For example, Nova Scotia’s water comes from various places, including freshwater lakes, but also possibly from contaminated lakes, she says.

“We want to educate the organizations taking care of our water resources so we can see how we can preserve the well water and how we can make sure the water from the fresh lakes is not contaminated,” Shah says, adding that many of her projects come to her after receiving funding from a national social innovation fund.

Private IT companies that want to design and test a product from scratch also often approach the research scientist.

“We are being approached by startups, by midsize companies and by large-scale companies,” Shah says. “We are being approached by organizations that take care of Indigenous communities. One project we’re working on involves artificial intelligence, Indigenous communities and Halifax’s storied Bluenose ship.”

For another project, Shah is helping small- and medium-sized enterprises identify the right clean technology investments for their business. Her lab is building a data repository to provide solutions to scale access to low-carbon emissions for businesses in the agri-food, construction and manufacturing industries. The repository is integrated from various sources using web-scraping and text-mining techniques. The parameters of the data repository will be set to allow an algorithm to forecast carbon emission reductions and analyze the return-on-investment of various interventions.

Shah and her team get involved from the beginning, first collecting the data, then building a database, preprocessing, storing and managing the data in a way that ensures they’re secure and making sure there's no breach. From there, they can make models of the data so they don’t have to analyze them manually.

Shah hasn’t used the services of ACENET directly, but she has circulated its many programs among the information technology students at the college.

“We have a lot of academic programs that have IT in them,” she says. “And students might want extra practice, or students might need to have something like a prerequisite. With ACENET, the courses are really applicable and I like to circulate them among students who need additional practice on that topic. So that's my interest with ACENET. I’m a fan.”

In addition, Shah is in the process of designing her own student training module that has an online portal where students can enrol themselves in training that is focused on real-time projects.

 “I have proposed to the committee that’s approving my student training module and funding that ACENET’s courses be prerequisites.”

Spring, 2023