HDSI Appoints Postdoctoral Fellow Specializing in Urban Economics

Cong Peng

HDSI Appoints Postdoctoral Fellow Specializing in Urban Economics

Cong Peng
Cong Peng, Postdoctoral Fellow
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HDSI continues to fulfill its commitment to serve as the data science hub to UC San Diego by appointing Cong Peng in its first cohort of Postdoctoral Fellows. Peng is currently completing his Ph.D. at London School of Economics in economic geography, and is set to start his two-year appointment at UC San Diego in October.

Peng’s research focuses on urban economics, with study on the relationships between transportation and traffic congestion on air pollution and e-commerce. His HDSI Mentor will be Professor Gordon Hanson of the School of Global Policy & Strategy and a member of the HDSI Faculty Council. As an HDSI Postdoctoral Fellow, Peng and the other Fellows will have the freedom of research collaboration with faculty and students at the university, and to participate in HDSI activities such as seminars, industry partnerships and cross-disciplinary projects.

Peng brings a diverse international educational background to the Institute gained from holding research positions in economics and law in the U.S., United Kingdom and China. He served as a Fox International Fellow at Yale University, and earned his master’s degree in economics from Fudan University, China. After earning his bachelor’s degree in economics from China’s Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, he was a visiting student at Kanazawa University in Japan. He speaks four languages.

His research interests include digital economies and rapid transit systems. His work has explored the economic impact of online retailing, and the relationship between e-commerce, traffic congestion and air quality. His research has addressed questions such as: Can e-commerce reduce traffic congestion? What is the impact of subways on employment and pollution? What is the socioeconomic impact of road development in Zambia? His data-science technology expertise and teaching experience includes GIS geographical information systems, quantitative analysis and spatial economic analysis.

Neuroscience Specialist Joins HDSI in First Postdoctoral Fellowship Cohort

Stephanie Martin

Neuroscience Specialist Joins HDSI in First Postdoctoral Fellowship Cohort

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In expanding its resources for data science access to the campus community, HDSI has appointed Stéphanie Martin in its first cohort of Postdoctoral Fellows. Martin is currently serving as a postdoctoral fellow at University of Geneva in Switzerland, and is set to start her two-year appointment at UC San Diego this summer.

Martin brings experience in machine learning for decoding various higher-order cognitive functions. Her background includes developing novel cognitive neuroprosthetics, the devices that restore or aid nervous system functions lost to illness or injury, such as cochlear implants for hearing loss. Her HDSI mentors will be Brad Voytek and Virginia de Sa, both faculty members in the Department of Cognitive Science. As an HDSI Postdoctoral Fellow, she and the other Fellows will have the opportunity for research collaboration with a variety of faculty and students at the university, and to participate in HDSI activities such as seminars, industry partnerships and cross-disciplinary projects.

Martin has written and been interviewed extensively in the media on neuroscience in such publications as Science, Scientific American and New Scientist. Her outreach work includes co-founding and serving as president of an organization running hacking contests aimed at designing solutions to improve daily living for the disabled.

Her Ph.D. thesis research was on neural engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technologies in Lausanne where she earned her doctorate; she performed postdoctoral work at the Auditory Language Lab at the University of Geneva, investigating spike-field interactions during sensory and decisional processing in the human cortex, the work contributed to the understanding of activity during various cognitive functions such as speech and predictive coding. She performed master’s work at UC Berkeley in neuroscience. Martin earned her bachelor of science degree in Life Sciences & Technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technologies, and a master’s of science degree in bioengineering from the same institution, specializing in neuroscience and biomedical technologies.

Her data-science related abilities include a knowledge of engineering signal processing, data analysis, advanced statistics, pattern classification, machine learning, data mining, speech recognition, electronics, brain-computer interface, connectivity analysis, anatomy and neurobiology of language. She speaks four languages, and earned multiple track and field medals while representing Switzerland.

Stephanie Martin
Stéphanie Martin, Postdoctoral Fellow

HDSI Director Receives Prestigious Computer Engineering Award

Rajesh Gupta

HDSI Director Rajesh Gupta has been selected to receive the prestigious IEEE Computer Society 2019  W. Wallace McDowell Award. Gupta, a professor of computer science and engineering at UC San Diego, is being recognized by the international engineering society “for seminal contributions” in cyberphysical systems. Previous winners include such renowned leaders of industry and research as Seymour Cray, Gordon Moore and Tim Berners-Lee. More about his award (and his SimCity vision for a better future).

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Sarcasm Detectors and the Drama of Global Warming: Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute Awards Innovative Scholarships

Sarcasm Detectors and Gene Transfers: Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute Awards Innovative Scholarships

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Undergraduates Austin Le, Sravya Voleti and Zahra Masood are developing an algorithm for winning political rhetoric with their research scholarship from HDSI. Credit/HDSI

LA JOLLA, CALIF., April 1, 2019 – Developing how the heart forms and brain works. How to analyze sarcasm computationally. Harnessing computers to develop campaign rhetoric that delivers voters across the political spectrum. The Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI) at the University of California San Diego has announced new funding for these and other innovative research projects helping develop the next generation in data science leadership.

HDSI has awarded research undergraduate scholarships to 17 students funding 14 projects total this spring quarter. In the inaugural year of the Undergraduate Scholarship Program, each project is granted a total $2,500-$6,000. The scholarship program goal is to provide hands-on training in real-world projects to emerging data science talent, noted Bradley Voytek, an HDSI Fellow and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego.

More than 50 students competed for the 14 scholarship project awards for the spring academic term. “It’s impressive what a hunger our students have developed to use the newest data science tools to uncover answers to important questions,” said Voytek, who directs the Institute’s scholarship program.

This is the first full academic year for the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (pronounced Haw-li-jyo-loo), which oversees one of the largest data science majors in the nation. The cross-disciplinary program educates more than 600 undergraduate students, and has an expanding graduate program. The newest funded undergraduate research projects drew students from more than 14 different academic disciplines – from mathematics to music, and data science to cognitive science. That diversity highlights the breadth of need and appeal of data science applications in society, noted Voytek.

Winning projects include data-science-based research exploring such subjects as: Quantum mechanics, how the brain works, how the heart forms, and even enhancing leisure activities such as fantasy sports games. The scholarships have proven to be a successful step in fulfilling the mission of the unique institute to serve as a data science hub drawing across academic boundaries, notes HDSI Director Rajesh Gupta.

“Our scholarships are a good way to develop research strengths in the undergraduate cohort, and for faculty and industry partners to work directly with our students on dynamic projects,” said Gupta, who is also a UC San Diego Distinguished Professor and the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Takashi Yabuta
HDSI scholarship winner Takashi Yabuta will use data science to build a sarcasm detector

Among the award-winning projects:

The Importance of Political Rhetoricbeing researched by a team of Data Science majors: Sravya Voleti, Austin Le and Zahra Masood. The team plans to analyze how politicians can boost their approval ratings by optimizing language to appeal to voters outside their target demographics. The Data Science students to use statistical modeling and make predictions about how a politician’s word choice could affect campaign outcomes. “We hope to discover what kind of language makes politicians successful,” their proposal states, “to create a definitive model that will help future politicians optimize their success in elections.”

Deep Learning for Sarcasm Detection. Data Science major Takashi Yabuta will use his scholarship to develop algorithms that help machines better understand nuances of human language. Yabuta notes that the challenge of Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is basically talking to voice recognition computer applications like Siri and Alexa, has been in the classification of sarcasm. Sarcasm tends to confound computers because it’s negative speech that appears positive. He hopes to create new approaches to improve algorithm performance for NLP.

The HDSI Undergraduate Research Scholarship program is geared to producing results, with scholars submitting final reports highlighting accomplishments. Each awardee works with a mentor to develop analytical skills, data science portfolios, and foster novel data-driven approaches to problem solving. Mentors include: Virginia de Sa, professor of Cognitive Science and HDSI Associate Director; Pavel Pevzner, an HDSI faculty affiliate in Computer Science and Engineering; Federico Rossano, and Eran Mukamel, of the Department of Cognitive Science; Erin Rose Glass, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Geisel Library; Robert Twomey, lecturer in Data Science and postdoctoral scholar with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination; Julian McAuley, assistant professor of Computer Science and Engineering; Zhuowen Tu of the departments of Cognitive Science and Computer Science and Engineering; Sean Kross, Ph.D. student in Cognitive Science; Andreas Goetz, assistant research scientist, San Diego Supercomputer Center; Mohit Jain, Department of Medicine; and Matthew Daugherty of the Division of Biological Sciences.

The new scholarship winners and projects are:

  • Mohamed Al Elew: Public Information in a Data-driven Society
  • Ethan Armand: Interspecies Single-cell Neuronal Analysis through Multi-omic Data
  • Ethan Bull-Vulpe: Database and Workflow Infrastructure for Machine Learning of Molecular Properties from Quantum Mechanical Data
  • Yixin Chen: PreStage: Previews and Predictions for Landscape Photographers
  • Fiona Cisternas: Using Ultra Wideband Technology to Improve Field and Experimental Tracking Methods
  • Zheng Hao Tang: Multi-agent Optimization in Fantasy Soccer
  • Chieko Imai: Devising Methods for Machine Learning Algorithm Transparency and Interpretability
  • Chinmay Kalluraya: A Novel Method to Infer Horizontal Gene Transfer
  • Gayatri Mainkar: Identifying Lipid Mediators of Pluripotency Maintenance and Cardiomyocyte Differentiation
  • Bohan Ni: Estimation of Microbiome Complexity through Metagenomic Sequencing and Hybrid Statistical Approach
  • Kevin Tan: Long-term Video Prediction with Self-supervised Spatiotemporal Learning
  • Sravya Voleti, Austin Le and Zahra Masood: The Importance of Political Rhetoric
  • Takashi Yabuta: Deep Learning for Sarcasm Detection
  • Yuxin Zou and Jiawei Tang: Exploration in Recurrent and Transformer Neural Networks for Text Summarization


HDSI plans to continue awarding the undergraduate scholarships annually, said Voytek. HDSI is also seeking mentors from across the campus community to lend their expertise and experience to guide student research. All UC San Diego undergraduate students are eligible to compete for scholarship funding. These awards follow the first quarter awards to 34 students who are currently mid-way through their year-long research projects. Learn more about the HDSI Undergraduate Research program.


The mission of the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (pronounced Haw-li-jyo-loo) at UC San Diego is to build scientific foundations for the new field of data science to help solve the world’s most pressing problems. Our teams explore principles, methods and tools that enable us to understand the nature of digital data and the interactions of this new field of enquiry to existing disciplines of human enquiry. We are committed to training and educating — at all levels — the next generation of leaders in data science.

Media Contact: Lisa Petrillo, Communications/Media Specialist Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute | UC San Diego Lpetrillo@ucsd.edu | 858/246-2491 | 858/382-1252 (cell)