Faculty advisor Daoji Li, Ph.D., led a UCF team to a second place finish in the 2017 SAS Analytics Shootout competition which was announced in September in Washington D.C. in the front of over a thousand people. (Watch the announcement video here.) This annual competition pits teams from all over the world against each other to solve a real-world analytics problem. This year’s case study required teams to analyze wildfire events and examine the underlying factors that contribute to their formation–research that helps communities prepare for wildfire impacts and mitigate risks.
Historically, UCF teams have consistently placed in the top three spots in this competition, with top three finishes in 2011, 2012, 2016 and now 2017. The faculty advisors for previous years were Morgan Wang, Ph.D., and David Nickerson, Ph.D. This year’s team consisted of Yanmei Patella (team captain) and Mingming Zhou. Yanmei recently earned a master’s degree from UCF’s Data Mining Program and is working at Citibank now. Mingming is currently completing a SAS Data Mining Certificate. Both were led by Li, who is a new member of the statistics faculty. This was his first competition, but he felt prepared thanks to the mentorship of Wang.
“It is very fortunate for me to get mentoring from senior colleagues, especially from Dr. Morgan Wang,” Li said. “Dr. Wang shared his success story on SAS Analytics Shootout with me. Our department also encourages junior faculty to attend national big data competitions.”
Nearly 20 years ago, the department created the country’s first data mining program at UCF. Now, UCF is about to offer doctoral students an opportunity to get ahead of the data science curve with a Ph.D. degree in Big Data Analytics. Led by Dr. Shunpu Zhang, chair of the Department of Statistics, he and his colleagues created this new PhD program to spearhead UCF’s effort to meet the Big Data Challenge. The Ph.D. program has been approved by Board of Governors, State University System of Florida and is in high demand from industry professionals and major businesses. The inaugural class begins Fall 2018. The SAS Analytics Shootout competition provides national exposure and recognition for UCF’s big data focus.
The team captain and faculty advisor were awarded complimentary travel, accommodations and meals to attend the annual SAS Analytics Conference and, during the awards ceremony, to give a presentation on their project. Along with national recognition, the team also earned a $3000 gift from SAS for UCF.
Edgard Maboudou, Ph.D., Associate Professor of UCF’s Statistics Department, attended the conference and worked a booth to connect with conference attendees, promote UCF’s master and Ph.D. programs, and recruit graduate students in data mining, statistics and big data.