SFU Big Data Student Working to Improve Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
Manekta Bedi’s enrollment in the Professional Master’s Program in Big Data partially happened by chance. Originally, the Information Technology graduate had planned to apply for a different Master’s program in SFU’s School of Computing Science, but then realized that applications were open for the newly launched Big Data program.
Manekta’s keen interest in data science was no accident, however. Before enrolling at SFU, she worked as an SAP ABAP developer at Infosys, India’s second largest IT firm. Using the programming language ABAP, Manekta delivered enhancements and solutions related to the Master Data in the Materials Management module of SAP’s enterprise resource planning software - a system that allows businesses to manage key operational functions.
“Given my previous experience working with data and writing code, SFU’s Professional Master’s Program in Big Data seemed like a natural fit,” says Manekta. As part of the program, Manekta is now completing her Co-op internship at Rick Hansen Institute in Vancouver, where she helps develop a mortality risk index for spinal cord injury patients.
The raw data she works with contains information from past spinal cord injury patients, such as the time and severity of the injury, and the times of admission to and discharge from the hospital. Utilizing machine learning algorithms and complex statistical techniques, Manekta can predict such things as patient mortality and length of hospital stay.
Nader Fallah, Senior Biostatistician at RHI, points out that “science is becoming a more interdisciplinary field. We need people with programming skills and a background in both statistics and computing science in order to solve complicated problems - really complicated problems, with many measurements. SFU’s Big Data program gives students the tools for this challenge.”
This unique Co-op opportunity has allowed Manekta to work side by side with biostatisticians, physiotherapists, and clinicians, and learn her share of medical terminology in the process.
“Working with a non-profit organization is deeply rewarding, because I know that my work is directly aimed at benefiting people,” says Manekta. “On top of that, this Co-op opportunity has really allowed me to diversify my portfolio.”
When finished, the mortality risk index for spinal cord injury will provide predictions with high-level accuracy and allow clinicians, as well as patients and their families, to make better decisions about treatment.