Park welcomed Dr. Cathy O’Neil to campus on March 7 as our 2016-17 Resident Scholar. Dr. O’Neil addressed the Upper School in an assembly and held workshops with students throughout the day, focusing on the use of mathematical algorithms in the world, and specifically how big data and algorithmic analysis can lead to a systematic bias.
After earning a Ph.D. in math from Harvard, Dr. O’Neil was a postdoctoral fellow in the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry. She then switched over to the private sector, working as a quantitative analyst for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She left finance in 2011 and started working as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene, building models that predicted people’s purchases and clicks.
Dr. O’Neil is the author of the New York Times bestselling Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, which was also a semifinalist for the National Book Award. She wrote Doing Data Science in 2013, and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia University in 2014. She is a columnist for the Bloomberg View.
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