Dr James Harrison: How my PhD prepared me for working in a non-profit foundation

Dr James Harrison: How my PhD prepared me for working in a non-profit foundation

James graduated from the University of Southampton in 2018 with an NGCM funded thesis in theoretical particle physics involving both mathematical as well as data-science work and high-performance computing. He then decided to leave academia and took on a role as data analyst and developer at Flowminder, a Swedish non-profit foundation with branch offices in the UK and Switzerland concentrating on “enabling decision makers to access the data they need to transform the lives of vulnerable people, at scale”. He has recently moved from Southampton to Dublin.

In his very engaging talk James explained how anonymised mobile-phone cell data could be gathered at scale by collaborating with government agencies and mobile-network providers to help vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries. Amongst the examples discussed were disaster response in Mozambique or sustainable development in Ghana, or movement of people under COVID-19 lockdown.

Besides discussing the variety of exciting data-science questions to be addressed, James conveyed the breadth of responsibilities that come along with his role. It involves actual hands-on data-science work, negotiating with mobile phone providers on, e.g., data formats, and engaging with political stake-holders all around the world.

Besides all of these interesting responsibilities the job (in normal circumstances) allows for a fair bit of travel to interesting countries around the world.

Written by Andreas Juttner