Ambarish Ganguly
Credit: Ambarish Ganguly

Education

St. Mary's Orphanage and Day School, Dum Dum Kolkata
St. Xavier's College
Physics
University of Calcutta
Computer Science and Engineering

How did you become a NASA citizen scientist?

I became involved firstly with the data science competition "Random Walk of the Penguins" (that’s part of a NASA citizen project: MAPPPD) which was hosted by DrivenData and was a collaborative effort between Oceanites, Inc., Black Bawks Data Science Ltd., and Dr. Heather Lynch's lab at Stony Brook University. The goal of this data science competition was to reach out to the data science community to build a model that predicts penguin populations. The prediction of changes in penguin populations is important for the long-term management of these species and important for understanding the entire ecosystem. I was very lucky to win first prize in the competition. The winners, along with Dr. Grant Humphries, wrote a paper on our methods.

What are your favorite citizen science projects to work on?

Apart from the project with the penguin population, I have been very fortunate to be associated with many data science projects for social good, namely Kiva Crowd Funding, Donors Choose Recommendation, PASSNYC, and Center for Policing Equity (CPE). All the projects involved extensive data analysis, visualizations, and modeling.

Kiva Crowd Funding is a nonprofit organization that provides loans to the needy all over the world. The project, which was in the form of a data science competition, was to help them build more localized models to estimate the poverty levels of residents in the regions where Kiva has active loans. Donors Choose Recommendation was founded in 2000 by a Bronx history teacher. DonorsChoose.org has raised $685 million for America's classrooms. The goal of this project was to help the team at DonorsChoose.org to connect donors with the projects that most inspire them. PASSNYC is a not-for-profit organization that facilitates a collective impact that is dedicated to broadening educational opportunities for New York City's talented and underserved students. The goal of this project was to enable PASSNYC to identify the schools where minority and underserved students stand to gain the most from services like afterschool programs, test preparation, mentoring, and resources for parents. The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) is research scientists, race and equity experts, data virtuosos, and community trainers working together to build more fair and just systems. The ultimate goal of this project was to inform police agencies where they can make improvements by identifying deployment areas where racial disparities exist and are not explainable by crime rates and poverty levels. I enjoyed working in all these projects. All projects had a common theme, which was data science for social good, and all were data science competitions. The CPE one was the most enjoyable since it used various types of data sources, such as tabular data and geospatial data. (I was not exposed much to geospatial data before.)

What do you do when you’re not doing science with NASA? Tell us about your job and your hobbies!

I presently work with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as the Energy Trading and Risk Management Lead, as well as Data Analytics Practice Lead for TCS Utilities. This is a very exciting position where I have the opportunity to combine domain knowledge with data. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by very enthusiastic and energetic people. I do follow cricket, a game very popular in the Indian subcontinent. I love to read detective books, and I also watch detective films.

What have you discovered or learned as a NASA citizen scientist?

Being curious and persistent were two important takeaways. The data science competition "Random Walk of the Penguins" ran for around two months. I was curious and persistent in my efforts, and eventually it was a nice ending for me.

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

India has a very strong culture of science. Therefore I was fortunate to grow up in a culture where curiosity and interest in science were very much encouraged.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a NASA citizen scientist?

The biggest challenge is to invest more time in such wonderful projects. I would love to participate more in such NASA projects in the future.

What advice would you give to others who might want to volunteer with NASA?

I would encourage everyone to volunteer with NASA. It's a wonderful way to be involved in things which have great impact. The icing on the cake is you also get to collaborate with the best brains (who are also wonderful people).

Who inspires you?

I watch and follow sports. I am inspired by the dedication, persistence, and perseverance of sportspersons. This inspires me a lot in my life. I have recently started doing research. I am inspired by scientists and researchers, and I find their persistence and dedication particularly admirable.

What are some fun facts about yourself?

My mother tongue is Bengali, which is the fifth-most-spoken native language, and the seventh-most-spoken language by total number of speakers, in the world. I am a MOOC addict and enroll myself in a lot of them, but unfortunately I am unable to finish most of them. I have learned a lot about data science and machine learning through MOOCs.