Meet a Data Scientist: Zarifa Zakaria, PhD

Profile picture of ADSA Career Development Network member, Zarifa Zakara, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the Data Science Academy at North Carolina University


Dr. Zarifa Zakaria earned a B.Ed. in Elementary Education and an M.Ed. in Educational Psychology from the University of Dhaka. She earned a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences from North Carolina State University (NCSU). Her Ph.D. work emphasized improving the collaboration quality in elementary computer science classrooms and exploring the motivation of underrepresented students in STEM. After earning her Ph.D., Dr. Zakaria evaluated educational outcomes associated with educational technologies for a startup called LearnPlatform.

Current Role

Dr. Zakaria has shifted her focus to researching teaching-learning dynamics in data science as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Data Science Academy at NCSU. In addition to her research,  In addition to her research, Zarifa supports evaluation efforts on data science education programs.

Career Advice

For anyone who will soon be on the job market, Dr. Zakaria highly recommends conducting informational interviews, which essentially means talking with people who are currently in the field to learn about the nitty-gritty details of their jobs. The responsibilities and working conditions of data scientists can vary a lot from organization to organization, so it can be helpful to learn as much as possible about the options that are available and which types of roles or organizations fit your interests.

Dr. Zakaria learned about the importance of conducting informational interviews during the Career Development Network’s Scholars-in-Training (SiT) Workshop during the 2023 ADSA Annual Meeting at the University of Texas at San Antonio. During the SiT Workshop, participants were given the opportunity to conduct quick informational interviews in a low-stakes setting to get comfortable with the process and begin scheduling informational interviews after the workshop. They also learned helpful tips for networking from Libby Heeren, the host of the Data Humans Podcast.

Related Content

Libby Heeren was also featured in our career panel about applying to a data science master’s programs.

Outside of Work

Dr. Zakaria loves spending time with her family. She also loves music, particularly Bangla music and songs written by the national poet Kazi Nazrul.

How to Connect

Learn more about Dr. Zakaria and how to get in touch by visiting her profile in the CDN Member Directory.

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