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Mikhail Belkin

Mikhail Belkin received his Ph.D. in 2003 from the Department of Mathematics at the University of Chicago. His research interests are in theory and  applications of machine learning and data analysis. Some of his well-known work includes widely used Laplacian Eigenmaps, Graph Regularization and Manifold Regularization algorithms, which brought ideas from classical differential geometry and spectral analysis to data science. His recent work has been concerned with understanding remarkable mathematical and statistical phenomena observed in deep learning. This empirical evidence necessitated revisiting some of the basic concepts in statistics and optimization.  One of his key recent findings is the “double descent” risk curve that extends the textbook U-shaped bias-variance trade-off curve beyond the point of interpolation.

Mikhail Belkin is a recipient of a NSF Career Award and a number of best paper and other awards. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Machine Learning Research, IEEE Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence and SIAM Journal on Mathematics of Data Science.

Post-Doctoral Fellow: Preetum Nakkiran

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Justin Eldridge
Assistant Teaching Professor

Justin Eldridge is an assistant teaching professor in HDSI. He obtained his PhD in computer science at The Ohio State University as a Presidential Fellow, along with BS degrees in physics and applied math. His research focus lies in statistical machine learning theory, with an emphasis on unsupervised learning and clustering in particular. His research while a PhD student received the best student paper award at COLT 2015 and a full oral presentation at NeurIPS 2016. Justin joined HDSI in 2018, where he develops and teaches courses in both the theoretical and practical foundations of data science and machine learning.

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Aaron Fraenkel
Assistant Teaching Professor

Fraenkel uses machine learning and experimental design to study large-scale abusive behaviors on the internet, particularly events driven by robots (known as bots). His teaching expertise is in the end-to-end practice of data science, drawing from his industry experience with cybersecurity, anti-fraud, and anti-abuse systems. He is one of the leaders developing and teaching the university’s foundational data science curriculum and major program overseen the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute.

Before joining UC San Diego in 2018, Fraenkel worked as a senior scientist at Amazon, with a focus on machine learning. Having worked as a data scientist at work in industry, he chose to return to academia and work at the root of instruction, helping shape student learning and critical thinking.

He earned his Ph.D. and undergraduate degrees in mathematics from UC Berkeley, and worked in postdoctoral faculty appointments in mathematics at Boston College and Pennsylvania State University. At HDSI, his curriculum development of the path-breaking data science program includes creating projects using real-world datasets and challenges.

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Zhiting Hu
Assistant Professor

Zhiting Hu is an Assistant Professor in Halicioglu Data Science Institute at UC San Diego. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Peking University in 2014, and his Ph.D. in Machine Learning from Carnegie Mellon University in 2020. His research interests lie in the broad area of machine learning, natural language processing, ML systems, healthcare and other application domains. In particular, He is interested in principles, methodologies, and systems of training AI agents with all types of experiences (data, knowledge, rewards, adversaries, lifelong interplay, etc). His research was recognized with best demo nomination at ACL2019 and outstanding paper award at ACL2016.

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Yian Ma
Assistant Professor

Yian Ma works on scalable inference methods and their theoretical guarantees, with a focus on time series data and sequential decision making. He has been developing new Bayesian inference algorithms for uncertainty quantification as well as deriving computational and statistical guarantees for them.

Prior to his appointment at UCSD, he worked as a post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley. He obtained his Ph.D. degree at University of Washington and his bachelor’s degree at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

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Gal Mishne
Assistant Professor

Mishne’s research is at the intersection of signal processing and machine learning for graph-based modeling, processing and analysis of large-scale high-dimensional real-world data. She develops unsupervised and generalizable methods that allow the data to reveal its own story in an unbiased manner. Her research includes anomaly detection and clustering in remote sensing imagery, manifold learning on multiway data tensors with biomedical applications, and computationally efficient application of spectral methods. Most recently her research has focused on unsupervised data analysis in neuroscience, from processing of raw neuroimaging data through discovery of neural manifolds to visualization of learning in neural networks.

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Berk Ustun
Assistant Professor

Berk Ustun is an incoming Assistant Professor at the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute at UC San Diego. His research lies at the intersection of machine learning, optimization, and human-centered design. Specifically, he is interested in developing methods to promote the adoption and responsible use of machine learning in medicine, consumer finance, and criminal justice.

Prior to his appointment at UCSD, Ustun held research positions at Google AI and the Center for Research on Computation and Society at Harvard. He received a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, an MS in Computation for Design and Optimization from MIT, and BS degrees in Operations Research and Economics from UC Berkeley. For more details, please see


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Lily Weng
Assistant Professor

Lily Weng is an Assistant Professor in the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute at UC San Diego. Her research interests focus on the intersection between machine learning, optimization and reinforcement learning, with applications in cybersecurity and healthcare. Specifically, her vision is to make the next generation AI systems and deep learning algorithms more robust, reliable, trustworthy and safer. She has worked on developing efficient algorithms as well as theoretical analysis to quantify robustness of deep neural networks. She received her PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) from MIT in August 2020, and her Bachelor and Master degree both in Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University in 2011 and 2013. More details please see