Wellesley Students Take Top Prizes at BOW’s DataFest

Five Wellesley students sit on bleachers discussing strategy at BOW Datafest
Photo provided by Wendy Wang
May 8, 2018

On April 6, students from Babson, Olin, and Wellesley gathered to compete in DataFest, sponsored by the American Statistical Association, during which teams from all three schools compiled, analyzed, and presented information from a large, real data set.

Over the weekend, the teams spent 48 hours working with the data set, which was provided by the job search website Indeed.com and included “over 17 million observations collected roughly over a one-year period between 2016 and 2017,” according to Wendy Wang, assistant professor of mathematics at Wellesley. Before turning to the data, the students watched an Indeed.com video that explained some of the details of the data set and what the company was interested in learning, and it asked the students questions, such as whether different locales experienced changes in the job market throughout the year.

Two teams from Wellesley won top prizes. Jess Abramson ’19, Anna Caldwell-Overdier ’19, Taylor Fortnam ’18, Molly Hoch ’18, and Anjali Nagulpally ’18 won the award for best use of external data. Jennifer Chien ’19, Brenda Ji ’18, Sabene Pleasant ’20, Clara Sorensen ’18, and Victoria Wu ’18 won the best in show awards for both visualization and data analysis.

“Each Wellesley team was able to come up with efficient and cutting-edge solutions to problems worked on by professional data scientists,” said Wu. Her team’s strength was its diverse areas of expertise, she said, representing majors that included biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, and studio art. Pleasant added that the event encouraged a “sense of camaraderie and support between all BOW students.”

Wang said the DataFest experience was invaluable for Wellesley students. “They got to learn the challenge and excitement of working with real data. In addition, they could put whatever they learned from their stats or CS [computer science] courses in practice, which was a fantastic way to know that what they learn in class are real skills,” she said. “Moreover, it’s a great opportunity to involve the three colleges together.”

More than 2,000 students take part in DataFest every year at a variety of host institutions. The competitions bring together members of the data science community, including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and industry professionals.

-- Christine Roberts ’19

Photo: Wellesley students chat during a break before the final prize ceremony at BOW DataFest held at Babson College.