Irena Hwang

Data Reporter

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Irena Hwang is a data reporter at ProPublica. She previously worked at NPR, The Associated Press and The Dallas Morning News. She has a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University, and studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

How Many of Your State’s Lawmakers Are Women? If You Live in the Southeast, It Could Be Just 1 in 5.

A record number of women were elected to statehouses last year. But in the Southeast, where some legislatures are more than 80% male, representation is lagging as lawmakers pass bills that most impact women, like near-total abortion bans.

How We Used Machine Learning to Investigate Where Ebola May Strike

ProPublica spent months teaching a computer to analyze past Ebola outbreaks linked to deforestation. What we found reveals a weakness in the way that governments and public health experts are preparing for future pandemics.

The (Random) Forests for the Trees: How Our Spillover Model Works

ProPublica borrowed machine learning methods from academic research to better understand links between forest loss and spillover risk. The results were surprising, but led us to a story we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Close to 100,000 Voter Registrations Were Challenged in Georgia — Almost All by Just Six Right-Wing Activists

The recent transformation of the state’s election laws explicitly enabled citizens to file unlimited challenges to other voters’ registrations. Experts warn that election officials’ handling of some of those challenges may clash with federal law.

After Pandemic Delays, FDA Still Struggling to Inspect Foreign Drug Manufacturers

In the wake of recent deaths from bacteria-tainted eyedrops, a ProPublica analysis of FDA data reveals that the agency only inspected 6% of the overseas plants where drugs and their ingredients are produced in 2022.

Au bord de la catastrophe

Une simple clairière de forêt nous sépare de la prochaine pandémie mortelle. Mais nous n’essayons même pas de la prévenir.

How Forest Loss Can Unleash the Next Pandemic

The forests around the epicenter of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak are getting patchier. The next pandemic could emerge from the edges around these patches, where wildlife and humans mix.

How We Found That Sites of Previous Ebola Outbreaks Are at Higher Risk Than Before

Research links deforestation to outbreaks. Combining two peer-reviewed models and the latest satellite images of tree loss, we discovered that the sites of five previous outbreaks have a greater chance of facing Ebola again.

On the Edge

The next deadly pandemic is just a forest clearing away. But we’re not even trying to prevent it.

How Not to Count Salmon

Data reporter Irena Hwang thought counting fish to evaluate the hatchery system in the Pacific Northwest sounded like a fun project. That was before she started asking biologists about what the publicly available data could really tell us.

The U.S. Has Spent More Than $2 Billion on a Plan to Save Salmon. The Fish Are Vanishing Anyway.

The U.S. government promised Native tribes in the Pacific Northwest that they could keep fishing as they’d always done. But instead of preserving wild salmon, it propped up a failing system of hatcheries. Now, that system is falling apart.

“If Everybody’s White, There Can’t Be Any Racial Bias”: The Disappearance of Hispanic Drivers From Traffic Records

In Louisiana, law enforcement agencies have been accused of targeting Hispanic drivers in traffic stops and identifying them as white on tickets. Misidentification makes it impossible to track racial bias, experts say.

How ProPublica Used Genomic Sequencing Data to Track an Ongoing Salmonella Outbreak

For a ProPublica reporter who did Ph.D. work in bioinformatics, data on bacterial DNA helped reveal how a once-rare salmonella strain spread through the chicken industry. Salmonella infantis is multidrug-resistant and is still making people sick.

America’s Food Safety System Failed to Stop a Salmonella Epidemic. It’s Still Making People Sick.

For years, a dangerous salmonella strain has sickened thousands and continues to spread through the chicken industry. The USDA knows about it. So do the companies. And yet, contaminated meat continues to be sold to consumers.

In a California Desert, Sheriff’s Deputies Settle Schoolyard Disputes. Black Teens Bear the Brunt.

Deputies in California’s Antelope Valley are disproportionately citing Black teens, often for minor infractions, like getting in fights or smoking. “They’re turning the principal’s office into the police station,” said one lawyer.

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