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Stirling student scoops top industry award

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A University of Stirling student has won a prestigious industry award for her data analysis project with Volunteer Scotland.

Debbie Maltman was awarded the Data Lab MSc 2017-18 Project Award, while Mark Wallace and Laura Hepburn, also from the University, were runners-up in the competition. 

“I really didn’t expect to win as there were so many great projects across a lot of different industries,” said Debbie, who is the third Stirling student in a row to win the award. “It was amazing to win it, and for a third sector organisation to be involved. It shows how far-reaching data science can be – it’s not just for large companies.”

The MSc Data Science for Business student was praised for her work which helped provide new insights into why and how often people volunteer, and what a typical volunteer looks like.

“They already have an amazing team at Volunteer Scotland, who are really committed to volunteering,” she said. “The project was about enhancing what they were doing and looking at how we could increase digital engagement on the website using data science and statistical tools.

“It gave me the confidence to apply what I’d learned through the year on real datasets and at the same time, help the organisation increase volunteering in Scotland.”

Debbie, who is originally from Ayr, had worked at HSBC in Stirling since graduating from the University with a first class BA (Hons) Economics degree in 2002.

When she was made redundant in 2017, she decided to undertake a Masters in Data Science in Business.

“Stirling was my first choice due to the positive experience I had at an undergraduate level; the most amazing campus and facilities; and a course that focused not only on the academic aspect of learning, but employability skills,” she said.

Course Director Dr Kepa Mendibil, who is a Senior Lecturer in the Stirling Management School, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for Debbie. I am particularly delighted for her because the work she has done has huge potential to bring significant benefits to society.

“This is the third year in a row that Stirling students have won the award and I think that’s testament to the quality of our graduates and their ability to make an impact in organisations across all sectors.”

Alan Stevenson, from Volunteer Scotland, said: “Debbie introduced our small team to some of the key skills and knowledge which has moved our insight and experimentation capability from the rudimentary to a much more enlightened understanding.

“Just as important, Debbie has been a wonderful ambassador for the power of data science within an organisation. We hope we can continue this aspect of her work with as much vigour and passion.” 

The team at Volunteer Scotland was so impressed by Debbie’s work, they have offered her a job as a Research Officer until June next year.

The MSc Data Science for Business course offered at Stirling Management School was the first of its kind to be launched in Scotland.

It has been designed to teach students how to use data to drive value for organisations and retains strong connections with industry. More than a third of the course involves students working directly with companies and organisations on real-world projects.

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