Studying in the Bachelor of Commerce allows you to specialise in an area of your interest, but also creates critical thinking skills, so you can bring your interests together and solve real world problems. For BCom (Hons) student Hassan Andrabi, this meant taking a love of maps and applying it to COVID-19.
Hassan’s family emigrated from Pakistan to Australia when he was 7 years old. From the moment they settled in Melbourne, studying at the University of Melbourne was always the goal.
‘When I was in year 11 I received a Kwong Lee Dow Scholarship, which allows you to come experience university life, and helps prepare you for your undergraduate studies. When I got my ATAR, I decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), as it was the kind of degree that gives you some flexibility and opens up your options.’
Hassan went on to major in Accounting and Finance, eventually pursuing Honours in Finance. His research explored how news sentiment and media discourse can impact financial markets. But one of Hassan’s most interesting projects to date has come from combining his interests in data and behaviour, with his own creative practice.
‘I did some freelance graphic design work while I was studying, which ultimately led to an author contacting me. He was working on a fantasy series, and wanted to know if I could illustrate a map for the world he was creating. I’ve always loved the aesthetic of maps, they’re fun to draw, and I find cartography as a discipline fascinating, as its really mathematical and dependent on scale. That obviously wasn’t the case here, as this was a work of fantasy, but I like that in maps you see this intersection of mathematics, art, and history.’
Hassan’s love of maps has manifested itself most recently in the creation of his COVID-19 Tracking Map, which he launched as Melbourne returned to lockdown, initially by post-code.
‘I’m drawn to maps, I always wanted to work on some kind of mapping project or website, and I like coding. When the second wave began to take off in Melbourne, I began looking over the typical tabular presentation of COVID statistics put forward by media outlets and government websites. These statistics were grouped by local government areas (LGAs), most of which were unknown to me. It became clear that I didn't know nearly enough about Victoria’s administrative regions to be able to draw any meaningful conclusions from these tabulated COVID statistics, and I thought that this information could be better expressed through a visual medium. There was an interactive Map that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) made, but it wasn’t particularly user friendly. I thought it would be fun to create something that had more of a user experience in mind, and worked better for things like mobile.’
Hassan takes the data from the DHHS’ daily media release and inputs it into his website each day. Creating a platform with user experience at the centre has proven highly successful, with Hassan’s map now receiving 40-50,000 Victorian users each day.
‘It’s taken off quite organically, and has continued to grow every day. I’ll admit the pressure has grown with that, as I don’t want to spread any misinformation, but it’s all based on the DHHS info. The main thing for me is waiting for that release each day and making sure there aren’t any errors in the code when I update the site.’
The Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) equips students with the skills and knowledge to understand and solve key business challenges. Make a difference to society, policy, and organisations while forging a pathway to a global career. Choose from majors including Accounting, Actuarial Studies, Economics, Finance, Management and Marketing.
The project has proven a huge success for both Hassan and the Victorian community. Now, as he nears graduation, he’s thinking about what comes next.
‘I think for now I would like to take a gap year, to go and work on some of my other projects, but I think eventually I might like to pursue further study, either Data Science, or possibly a PhD with the university’s Brain, Mind and Markets Lab.’
Banner Image, Hassan's COVID-19 Tracking Map, as of 10am, Wednesday, July 22.