From catching birds to writing code
Align MS in Computer Science, Khoury College of Computer Sciences
Jeannille Hiciano spent three seasons as a globe-trotting field technician, researching birds. She tested hormone levels in red-backed fairy wrens in Australia and examined physiological responses to heat in painted buntings in South Carolina. Then, in 2019, she went further afield, embarking part time on a master’s degree at Northeastern in computer science.
To Hiciano, who took a class in data science as an undergraduate, it was a logical move. “I love solving problems,” she says, “and that’s what computer science is about.”
Hiciano sees a clear link between ecology and the data science and predictive modeling she’s learning now. Her program, known as Align, is designed for anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject—no computer science background required.
“The natural ecosystem is the original system: how things work together, how changing one thing is going to have an impact on all other parts of the ecosystem,” Hiciano says. “That’s why I like CS, too.”
Hiciano intends to connect her experience collecting avian data with her new skills in predictive modeling and decision-making. An interdisciplinary education and experience, Hiciano hopes, will help her address the complex challenges of ecological conservation.
“Being a person that can explain multiple sides [of a problem] is really important,” Hiciano says. “You need to learn all sides of your issue in order to make an impact.”