By Jennifer T. Allen
Ana Sampaio has always been interested in technology and, as an international student from Brazil, she also has a deep interest in international relations. Now a senior at the University of Kentucky, Sampaio has combined her passions into three majors: political science and economics in the College of Arts and Sciences and information communication technology (ICT) in the College of Communication and Information.
“I really like combining political science with economics because I can study international economics and international development. I've also always been interested in technology and exploring that side of things, I just thought I wasn't good enough at math to pursue it. I found out I was overthinking it. Plus, ICT focuses more on the analytical side, and I am completely mesmerized by it,” said Sampaio.
Sampaio’s passion in data science landed her an internship with World Data Lab and a Trunzo Scholarship last summer.
"I actually applied to about 30 internships, but the one that worked out was the one where I had a faculty connection on campus, she said. "The professors at UK are so attentive and they always want students to succeed. Even though I didn't take Dr. Patel’s class, I always asked for his advice. I know his recommendation of me was one of the reasons I secured the internship with World Data Lab.”
Sampaio also took the initiative to learn a statistical computing programming language, R, which helped her stand out as an undergraduate student. The course, usually taught at the graduate level, was introduced for the first time to undergraduate students through a course taught by Dr. Clayton Thyne in the Department of Political Science.
“Dr. Thyne was amazing. It was one of the best classes I've ever taken here. I always tell him that if it wasn't for that class, I would not have gotten the internship,” Sampaio said. “The pieces fit together well here. All the professors work together, sometimes not even knowing that they're working together.”
But an internship wasn’t all Sampaio had planned, she wanted to gain research experience as well. As a Trunzo Scholarship recipient, she was able to begin her research on “How Critical Infrastructure Privatization Affects Countries’ Cybersecurity” which she is continuing this semester in her Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies class.
“Being a Trunzo Scholar is impactful because it goes way beyond research especially with the expenses I have as an international student. It allowed me to save money that I needed for school while also having something I could use for my summer living expenses,” Sampaio said. “Opportunities like these give you confidence and the time and energy to do the research and lessens the financial burden.”
The scholarship also allowed Sampaio to dedicate herself to the internship, which has extended an offer to continue through her time at UK, with the possibility of a job upon graduation.
“Students have to live. We have to eat. And when that stress is piling on, it's hard to be able to focus on the other things. Opportunities like the Trunzo Scholarship allow us to focus on our interests and future career goals without worries about how we will financially make it all work,” she said.
As far as plans for her future after UK, Sampaio knows it will revolve around technology and data.
“I never thought I would like data science this much. I tended to overlook it thinking it was too complex. But, as I have learned, there is so much you can do. And the complexity actually makes it more fun. I love being able to 'mess around' with data - it's really, really cool,” she said. “I'm also very interested in cyber security. Data science and cybersecurity pretty much summarize the intersection between my majors. I can explore the financial side of data, the political side. I can write professionally because of the courses required in the College of Arts and Sciences, I can code. And ICT brings in the analytical and technical side in dealing with data and information. I like that I have a lot of options.”
During her time at UK, Sampaio helped found the Brazilian Student Association, is president of the Student Association for Peace Studies, is involved in Pi Sigma Alpha (the political science honor society), has been a resident advisor for three years, and is an international ambassador for the university.
“I wasn't sure I was going to be able to attend the University of Kentucky due to financial barriers, so when everything aligned and I arrived in Lexington, I knew I had to make the most of it. And all the resources and professors at UK have been a key factor in helping me achieve that goal,” she said.