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Data Science Speaker Series Opens with Focus on Social Justice

Pie Chart

Montgomery College’s Math, Statistics, and Data Science Department welcomed Dr. Cesar Montalvo to the Rockville Campus on February 9 to discuss how he used data science to quantify food insecurity in the Washington, D.C., region. 

Dr. Montalvo, an assistant professor of research with the social and decision analytics division of the Biocomplexity Institute at University of Virginia, shared a new approach to assessing the financial needs of households, known as a household living budget, to an in-person audience as well as many others who joined via Zoom.  

Driven by a strong desire to conduct research that reduces poverty and inequality in communities, Montalvo and his colleagues used a 2023 Capital Area Food Bank Hunger Report indicating 14% of all households in the District-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area were food insecure—and another 18% of DMV households were severely food insecure—as the basis for their study.  

Dr. Montalvo believes the new measure will help identify “at-risk” populations for food insecurity, but also will improve food assistance programs such as SNAP and WIC.

Cesar Montalvo
Cesar Montalvo, Ph.D., assistant professor of research, University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute.

“Dr. Montalvo’s study underscores how data science is an integral part of so many of today’s careers. We developed the speaker series to show students how they can use data in fields like journalism, public policy, health care, and social justice, to name a few,” said Rachel Saidi, data science program coordinator. 

Over the past year and a half, the speaker series invited experts to speak to students and the College community in person and via Zoom about data science careers in local industry and government, sports careers, and litigation and digital forensics. In addition, the department hosted panel discussions on the job of a data scientist and what MC’s data science graduates are doing now.  

Household Living Budget
Slide from Dr. Montalvo's Zoom presentation shows fundamental household needs.

In November 2023, the department hosted a screening of Coded Bias, a groundbreaking film in which Joy Buolamwini, an MIT computer scientist, exposes prejudices and threats to civil liberty in facial recognition algorithms and artificial intelligence. 

For more information on the Data Science Speaker Series or the data science program, email