Pioneering Research Will Be on Display During Data Science Day

DATA SCIENCE DAY | Columbia University | March 28, 2018 | 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Roone Arledge Auditorium

Jeannette Wing

Columbia is holding its third annual Data Science Day, a conference that will showcase the pioneering research of university professors who use the most advanced techniques in data science to transform all fields, professions and sectors and solve society’s most vexing problems. The professors are affiliated with the Data Science Institute (DSI) at Columbia, the international leader in data science research, education and outreach.

The day, which is open to the public, aims to foster collaboration between data-driven innovators in academia, industry and government in order to deepen understanding of issues such as public health and medical research, climate change and financial risk.

“As a renowned university with top schools, departments and centers, Columbia is the perfect laboratory in which to explore the transformation of all fields through the application of data science,” says Jeannette M. Wing, Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute. “And for that transformation to spread widely, data scientists and domain experts must work with industry partners and policymakers to harness the data science revolution in ways that serve society and use data for good. That’s our purpose and hope in hosting Data Science Day.”

In quick summaries of their research, known as lightning talks, professors from across Columbia will discuss and demonstrate how they are using data science to benefit society and address problems like the onslaught of fake news and cyberattacks that threaten our privacy, our financial security and even our democracy.  May they be engineers or lawyers, computer scientists or journalists, doctors, historians or social scientists, the professors are implementing the most advanced techniques in data science – machine learning, neural networks, topic modeling, Bayesian statistics and deep learning – to conduct pioneering research that is advancing the state-of-the-art in the field. The focal point for this breakthrough research is the Data Science Institute, whose 300 affiliated faculty members work in all fields, departments and schools throughout Columbia University.

During a fireside chat at the conference, Wing will discuss “Data and Democracy” with Columbia President Lee Bollinger. Along with being distinguished leaders, Wing and Bollinger are also prominent thinkers in their respective fields. Wing is a former Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Research who led Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department and oversaw the National Science Foundation’s computer and information science and engineering directorate. Bollinger is Columbia’s first Seth Low Professor of the University, a member of the Columbia Law School faculty, and one of the country’s foremost First Amendment scholars. In their chat, they’ll discuss the implications of digital data on law, policy and democracy. Platform companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google are heightening concerns about fake news and hate speech and alleged influence in national elections. They will explore questions such as: Are there new threats to our democracy that we need to worry about? Or are we simply witnessing a transformation of what democracy means?

The day’s keynote address will be given by Diane Greene, CEO of Google Cloud, who will talk about the convergence of big data, artificial intelligence, and the cloud. Greene is one of the most prominent executives in enterprise technology. Before Google, she co-founded and sold three successful technology companies. She is on the board of MIT as a lifetime member of the MIT Corporation and remains on Alphabet’s board.

Here’s a list of the lightning talks to be given by researchers:

Health Discovery From and For Data Science

Panelists: Nicholas P. Tatonetti, Herbert Irving Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, and Director, Climate and Health Program; Using Electronic Health Records to Study the Heritability of Traits and Disease. Jeffrey Shaman, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Developing Real-time Nowcasting and Forecasting of Seasonal Influenza. Jacqueline Gottlieb, Professor of Neuroscience: Knowing What’s Important: How Humans Decide To What To Attend

David Blei

Climate + Finance: Use of Environmental Data to Measure and Anticipate Financial Risk

Panelists: Geoffrey Heal, Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise in the Faculty of Business; Professor of International & Public Affairs: Evaluating the Risks of Sea-level Rise on Property Values and Coastal Infrastructure. Lisa Goddard, Director of International Research Institute for Climate and Society: Using Data to Help African Farmers and to Forecast Financing for Humanitarian Aid. Wolfram Schlenker: Agricultural Yields and Prices in a Warming World

Machine Learning: The Good, The Bad and The Law

Panelists: David Blei, Professor of Statistics & Computer Science:  Designing a Model to Show How Customers Choose Products. Junfeng Yang, Associate Professor of Computer Science: Effective Testing and Verification of Deep Learning Systems. Joshua Mitts, Associate Professor of Law: The Effect of Cybersecurity Breaches on Financial Markets

Professors and their students will also demonstrate their research and new technologies. The day will end with a reception for industry, government, faculty and students.


The Data Science Institute, founded in 2012, is the international leader in data science, in research, education and outreach. Its mission is to advance the state-of-the-art in data science; to transform all fields through the application of data science; and to ensure the responsible and ethical use of data to benefit society. DSI is also training the next generation of data scientists and developing innovative technology. With more than 250 affiliated faculty working in all fields and schools across Columbia, the Institute fosters collaborations that advance the field of data science while addressing the urgent problems facing society.

— Robert Florida, Data Science Institute         

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