Analytics for Social Good: Application to Human Trafficking



Melissa Chi is a senior at Northwestern University from Akron, Ohio studying Industrial Engineering with a minor in Data Science and a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications. Besides doing research, she is involved in the Industrial Engineering Activities Board and volunteering. Her research topic is determining and examining the factors that influence human trafficking and identifying countries with the largest volume of human trafficking victims. Through this research, she hopes to help identify countries with the largest amount of human trafficking victims that can be saved through intervention. 


My research examines and determines the factors that influence human trafficking. These are things that are very specific to each country, such as the GDP per capita, unemployment rate, amongst other things. So basically, in my research, I try to identify the factors that can predict the trafficking and I also am planning on identifying countries that have a large amount of human trafficking.

I was able to connect with a professor whose work focuses on humanitarian logistics and trafficking. So I thought it was really interesting because she was applying concave techniques to human trafficking, which is usually a very qualitative field. Usually, since it’s very hidden, it’s hard to get hard data on it, so I thought it was really interesting. I was able to get connected with her and she encouraged me to pursue my interest in the field. So, over the summer, she’s been guiding me on my research project, and that is how I kind of started applying my passion for data analytics to this field.

Yeah, so I would definitely say that one of the biggest challenges is getting substantial data on human trafficking because of its nature. That’s definitely a challenging thing. Also, a lot of countries I feel aren’t very open with data like that, because it is something that’s looked down upon. So they don’t really want to publicize it, even if they are aware that it’s happening in their countries. But, I definitely would say success is just knowing that what the work I do may be able to impact people who are being trafficked. Knowing that this could be used for social good is amazing.

I would definitely say you’re not always going to get there. There’s going to be a lot of different things, you have to shift around, your goal will probably always change. The results aren’t always going to be what you expect them to be, so sometimes it’s just about being adaptable with your goals and the results that happen.