Indian-origin data scientist wins UK’s top rail award
London: An Indian-origin data scientist has been named ‘Newcomer of the Year’ in the 2023 RailStaff Awards in the UK for displaying “exceptional skill, tenacity and professional achievement” in her field of work.
Maharashtra-born Smital Dhake, 26, who joined the rail industry in July 2022, is the first and only data scientist at Alstom, the UK and Ireland’s leading supplier of new trains and train services.
“This award means so much to me. It will inspire me to keep up the hard work, and I hope it also inspires others who are new to the industry. I am truly grateful for everyone who has helped me through my journey. I’ve had wonderful mentors, colleagues and managers. I am truly honoured,” she was quoted as saying in railuk.com.
This award, announced at a recent ceremony in Birmingham, is intended to recognise the outstanding contributions of individuals who are new to rail or who have chosen to take a career change and become an apprentice.
According to Lorna Richardson, Head of Customer Engagement at Alstom, Dhake established collaborative relationships, achieved IRSE (Institution of Railway Signal Engineers) competence and delivered safety-related works in record time.
“Smital Dhake rapidly applied her Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) expertise and has solely made an enormous impact already in a highly professional manner,” Richardson said.
Smital joined the railway specifically to work on the innovative Modular Advanced Route Setting (M-ARS) System.
The UK railway’s first M-ARS system with machine learning techniques is applied to use real-time data to predict future events to enable quicker decision-making to resolve conflicting train movements and thereby increasing the efficiency of the railway.
But with no previous rail industry knowledge, Smital had to undergo extensive as well as intensive knowledge transfer processes in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the rail sector and signalling systems.
“Smital achieved these business-critical objectives in under six months, a task which would normally be expected to take up to three years,” Richardson added.
Smital attended Watford Grammar School in England, followed by university at King’s College London.