What Is Data Science?


Over the past several years, the term “Data Science” has emerged in popular media and has become a common phrase for employers and job-seekers alike. But what does it really mean and how do the practical differences between industries affect the type of work that data scientists do? Many UChicago graduate students and postdocs have quantitative skills from their training but are unsure about how it will translate beyond the academic setting. This panel will explore data-intensive roles in a diverse range of fields to illuminate a few of the options available to advanced-degree scholars.


Christopher Greer, Principal Data Scientist, Oracle (PhD Astronomy & Astrophysics 2012)

Chris received his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from UChicago in 2012 with a thesis on radio astrophysics instrumentation and observations of galaxy clusters. He completed a postdoc at the University of Arizona working on the Event Horizon Telescope project in 2015. Chris left academia in 2015 and worked for KPMG as a data science consultant. He joined Oracle in February 2017 as a Principle Data Scientist in the Oracle Data Cloud group. Chris lives in Denver with his wife. LinkedIn

Matthew Baggott, Senior Principal Data Scientist, Genentech (Postdoc Neuroscience 2012)

Matthew is a Senior Principal Data Scientist at Genentech, where he works on the People Analytics team to try to increase individual and organizational success. Before landing at Genentech, he tried his luck at several Silicon Valley startups. LinkedIn

John Stevenson, Principal Research Scientist, NSI (PhD Political Science 2014)

Dr. John A. Stevenson is a Principal Research Scientist at NSI, Inc, a private data analytics firm and founding editor of The South Living Room, a digital multi-media lifestyle magazine. His published peer-reviewed works (a) focuses on the commemorative uses of past massacres (through the construction of genocide memorials) to create a narrative justification of unending “post-genocide” authoritarian political order in Rwanda; (b) empirical assessments of the most effective counter-terrorism responses to Boko Haram in Nigeria using event data. At NSI, Dr. Stevenson works primarily with public sector clients as a multi-method data scientist: curating data narratives from multiple data types for validated social scientific inferences and analysis. Prior to joining NSI, Dr. Stevenson worked as a lead investigator and senior researcher in the DHS Center of Excellence, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, College Park. LinkedIn

Tanya Baker, Analytic Scientist, FICO (PhD Physics 2006)

Tanya is an analytic scientist at FICO applying neural network and other predictive analytic technologies for card and electronic payment fraud detection. Previously she was a junior research fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies modeling large-scale neuronal population dynamics using statistical methods. As a post-doctoral lecturer at the University of Chicago, she developed and taught Mathematical Methods for the Biological Sciences in its first years. In collaboration with fellow U of C graduate students and faculty, she co-authored MATLAB® for Neuroscientists, An Introduction to Scientific Computing in MATLAB®. LinkedIn


Sema Barlas, Director, UChicago MSc Analytics Program (PhD UChicago 1995 Quantitative Psychology & Research Methodology)

Dr. Barlas' expertise is in the areas of applied marketing models, statistics, research methodology, and consumer behavior. Barlas’s research has been published in journals such as Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and Applied Journal of Econometrics with over 500 citations. Prior to the University of Chicago, Barlas had taught at Argosy University in Chicago, McGill University in Canada, and University of Groningen in Netherlands and worked in industry for several years. At Sears, Roebuck, and Co., she developed credit risk, credit revenue, and line-of-credit models to manage acquisitions and portfolios of existing accounts. At Experian, she led projects in all aspects of database marketing. Barlas earned her PhD from the University of Chicago in Quantitative Psychology and Research Methodology and Master’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign in Applied Statistics. LinkedIn