Jenny Walker


Fact file

  • Current position: PhD Student at the University of Southampton.
  • Former position: BSc in Computer Science at the University of Southampton.
  • Main interests/academic achievements: My PhD is about investigating how to adapt cutting edge computer vision techniques for underwater photography, including normalising for underwater specific environmental effects, and generalising across different imaging systems. I also have a keen interest in science communication, and have given talks on ethical machine learning for two local groups, SciRoom and Skeptics at the Pub.
  • 2020 DSSG Summer project group: Ofsted group.


What is a social cause you care about deeply? 

I care deeply about climate change and sustainability. The scale of the climate crisis is devastating, and I believe more resources need to be put into reducing its impact and reversing the damage we’ve done, so we can get back to a stable level of CO2 in our atmosphere. There needs to be a push to reduce extreme consumerism, a huge political and societal shift away from constant growth and expansion, and much higher investment into carbon reducing technologies. We have the capability to avoid the largest disaster the human race has ever faced, we just need to prioritise it before it’s too late.


What have you found the most interesting so far when working with Ofsted/World Bank?

Working with Ofsted has been interesting because we get to work with their data science team directly and we get to discuss the wider impact of what we’re doing with people from across so many different areas within the department. It’s been really interesting to explore the possible real-world consequences of our actions with the people who’ll be using our model, that isn’t something I often get to do when working on data science problems.


When you're not working, what can you be found doing?

I’m an amateur ballroom and Latin dancer, have recently taken up beekeeping, and I’m an avid gardener, trying to grow some of my own fruit and veg on my balcony.


What skills have you gained so far on the DSSGx summer project programme and working with World Bank/Ofsted?

I’ve learnt so much about the social sciences side of things, analysing very human processes in a complex real-world setting. While we’re trying to model these things in a very numerical way, we still have to be aware of exactly what our data catches, and what other aspects of the world it doesn’t, and take into account the real-world consequences of what we’re doing.


What blog, podcast or book does everyone need to be aware of?

One of my favourite books ever is Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, and anyone working on, or even just interested in, machine learning should give it a read. It’s a real eye opener when it comes to how algorithms impact the world around us and our everyday lives. On a lighter note, Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths is all about how algorithms can help us make better decisions in everyday life, from how to efficiently organise your wardrobe to picking the house you want to rent or buy.


What would be your dream industry/ sector to work in? How do you think your involvement in the DSSG could help you get there? 

I’d love to work in the sustainability sector, looking at the ways our current system encourages constant growth and consumerism, and investigating alternatives through national and international policy, social change, and technological advances. I think the DSSG programme has helped by introducing me to likeminded people who want to help make the world a better place, and by teaching me about complex human based systems, and the issues we face when trying to simplify that complex system into something numerical.