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British-Indian Data Scientist From Maharashtra Wins UK Rail Award

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A British Indian data scientist from Maharashtra has been awarded the UK’s RailStaff Awards 2023 in the Newcomer of the Year category at a Birmingham ceremony.

Smital Dhake, the first and only data scientist at mobility giant Alstom, was born in Jalgaon and later attended Watford Grammar School in England, followed by university at King’s College London.

The 26-year-old, based at Alstom’s Hatfield office in eastern England, says she was inspired by her grandparents to work hard and her ambition is to continue to develop and apply her skills to contribute to developing engineering technologies.

“Smital is a fast learner who always finds ways to seek knowledge and exponentially grow herself,” said Mifaz Miftha, Design Group Manager at Alstom, after the award ceremony last month.

“She regularly takes on much more complex tasks above her role and delivers them with full commitment and with a high level of accuracy. Her meticulous approach to problem-solving and critical thinking on design have made Smital an asset to Alstom and the wider railway industry where innovation and sustainability are key to growth,” he said.

The young scientist is also described as an “enormous inspiration” to young women who are thinking of pursuing a career in the science, tech, engineering, and maths (STEM) category.

“Smital has used her own time to visit numerous schools promoting careers in engineering and sustainability,” added Miftha.

The RailStaff Awards began in 2007 to recognize the great work of the people who work in the rail industry and to show appreciation for the people who deliver the UK’s railways – from drivers to cleaners, and engineers to station staff. As the only national award scheme for UK rail employees, they often showcase stories of lives saved, careers turned around and adversity conquered.

Smital joined Alstom’s Digital and Integrated Systems (D&IS) UK signaling business to work on the innovative Modular Advanced Route Setting (M-ARS) system at its Hertfordshire base.

The UK railway’s first M-ARS system with machine learning techniques, or reinforcement learning, uses real-time data to predict future events to enable quicker decision-making to resolve conflicting train movements thereby increasing the efficiency of the railway.

Alstom said its M-ARS system is currently undergoing Network Rail product approval and Smital is instrumental to the process. Once approved, M-ARS will be delivered on several high-profile rail projects.


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