Photo of Rajesh Gupta
Rajesh Gupta
Distinguished Professor, HDSI Founding Director

Professor Gupta’s research interests span topics in embedded and cyber-physical systems with a focus on energy efficiency from algorithms, devices to systems that scale from IC chips, and data centers to built environments such as commercial buildings.

Gupta received a Bachelor of Technology in electrical engineering from IIT Kanpur, India; a Master of Science in EECS from University of California, Berkeley; and a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University, US. Gupta is a Fellow of the IEEE, the ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Virginia de Sa
Professor, HDSI Associate Director Cognitive Science

Associate Director de Sa is a leader in the fields of cognitive science, neuroscience, computer science, engineering, and data science. Her research utilizes multiple approaches to increase our understanding of  how humans and machines learn to perceive the world around them.

She earned her Ph.D. and master’s in Computer Science from the University of Rochester, and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Engineering from Canada’s Queen’s University.

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Dimitris Politis
Distinguished Professor, HDSI Associate Director

Associate Director Politis is an internationally known scholar in mathematics and economics, working on time series, bootstrap methods, and nonparametric estimation, and a researcher with authorship of more than 100 journal papers and monographs.

Politis earned his Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University, and dual masters’ degrees from Stanford in statistics and mathematics. He also holds a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in computer and systems engineering, and his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from University of Patras in Greece.

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Jennifer Morgan
Chief Administrative Officer

Industry Relations

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Kyle Hofer-Mora
Assistant Director for External Relations and Strategic Initiatives

Kyle Hofer-Mora serves as Assistant Director for External Relations and Strategic Initiatives at Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI).  In this capacity, Kyle works with a talented team focused on industry partnerships, as well as with faculty members, to strategically grow new graduate and professional programs.  He is responsible for the development and implementation of strategies to promote and expand HDSI’s program offerings and overall reach.

Kyle joins HDSI after four years as the Director of Business Analytics Graduate Programs at California Polytechnic State University, where he was instrumental in the launch and growth of a master’s program in business analytics, as well as professional certificates offered through a partnership between the College of Business and Extended Education.   With responsibilities that included working with industry partners for student projects, organizing data analytics symposia, leading the Business Analytics Advisory Board, and serving as a member of the campus-wide Data Science Task Force,  Kyle has formulated ways to ensure program offerings stay at the forefront of trends in this emerging and dynamic field and continue to meet the needs of the marketplace.

The bridge between academia and industry is a space in which Kyle is quite comfortable, having 10 years of experience in the financial services industry prior to joining the university setting.  He holds an MBA in Global Business from Pepperdine University and a B.A. in Finance from CSU Fullerton.


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Erik Mjoen
Industry Relations Manager

As Industry Relations Manager, Erik focuses on building partnerships and collaboration between industry and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, with an emphasis on Research & Innovation, Recruitment, Continued Learning, and Leadership.

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Sophia Tran
Industry Relations Specialist

Student Affairs

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Yvonne Wollmann
Student Affairs Manager
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Saura Naderi
K-14 Outreach Director

Saura Naderi ‘07 earned her engineering degree from UC San Diego Jacobs School just as the recession hit. Not satisfied by the opportunities available to her, she created her own. She volunteered, later becoming an employee, to create a program at UC San Diego where undergraduates and K-12 students could play and explore science and technology with art-themed engineering-based projects. After receiving the exemplary employee award at UC San Diego and the Athena Pinnacle award and invited to do a TEDx talk, she was recruited by Qualcomm to create a similar program named – Thinkabit Lab. Upon leaving Qualcomm, Thinkabit Lab engaged 14,000+ middle school students and has been replicated in many different environments from libraries and schools to universities and companies. Saura was also a contestant on SyFy’s Robot Combat League, was an “Adventure Person” on Nerdist, and is the color commentator for the world’s first giant robot fight held in Japan. One of the creative projects she is most proud of is envisioning, and leading a team of engineers and artists to create, a robotic dress that hugs people. Saura is leading efforts to broaden participation in Data Science by designing creative ways to engage a diverse population.

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Margaret Zuhlke
Career Services & Alumni Relations Advisor

Margaret Zuhlke is the Career Advisor and Alumni Relations Specialist for the Halicioglu Data Science Institute. Pronouns are she, her, and hers. Prior to her current role, Margaret was the first academic advisor and staff member for the Halicioglu Data Science Institute. During her time as an academic advisor, Margaret completed a Career Advising Certification through UC San Diego Extension, which led to a national certification as a National Workforce Development Professional. Margaret leverages her understanding of the curriculum to advocate for student career potential within industry while supporting current students and alumni with building career competencies and a confidence in abilities. She is committed to the Institute’s mission of training the next generation of data scientists by supporting the professional development of current students and alumni.

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Meaghan Kelliher
Program Coordinator & Undergraduate Advisor
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Whitney Davis
Undergraduate Intake Advisor
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Sonlong Nguyen
Program Coordinator & Undergraduate Advisor Student Affairs

Sonlong is a Program Coordinator and Undergraduate Student Advisor at HDSI. Previously, Sonlong has served as a coordinator and academic advisor at Thurgood Marshall College and Eleanor Roosevelt College at UCSD. He is also an alum of UCSD where he received a BA in Urban Studies & Planning before going on to SDSU to receive his MA in Postsecondary Educational Leadership.

Executive Office

Lailani Aguila
Faculty Assistant
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Brittany Hewitt
Academic Personnel Manager

Brittany Hewitt is currently our Academic Personnel Analyst for Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI). Prior, Brittany worked as an Academic Personnel Analyst at the Academic Resource Center (ARC), at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Her passion for connectivity and communication gives her the ability to understand organizational needs as well as individual needs and partner with each to meet and exceed their expectations. She prides herself on the ability to establish relationships and communicate effectively and efficiently with all business partners.

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Laura Louie
Financial Manager
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Eric Snee
Administrative Operations and Media Lead
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Logan Weidenhoffer
Executive Assistant to the Director


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Bobby Gordon
Marketing & Communications Director

Bobby serves as the Institute’s Marketing & Communications Strategist. Before joining UC San Diego, he served higher education in a variety of marketing and strategic administrative roles at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, University of Akron, Kent State University and University of Phoenix. He serves as a professional consultant and volunteer in higher education and non-profit sectors, and also is a professional speaker. He earned his MBA from University of Arizona and his BA from Muskingum University.

Najeem Kanishka
Web Administrator
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Parth Shah
Web Administrator
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Eric Snee
Administrative Operations and Media Lead