Data Science Masters students tackle the mental health crisis and more at the Spring 2020 DATS Presentation

Presentation still from Pedro Peterson’s “Screening for mental illness from mobile phone data: a detection of psychotic symptoms.”

This year’s Spring 2020 DATS Presentation featured a wide variety of insightful and relevant topics. Below, you’ll find a list of the presenters, in addition to some project goals and key takeaways.

A hierarchical bayesian approach for tagged playlist generation”

Presenter: Anish Jain
Advised by: Eric Bradlow
Conclusion: “There’s a very high degree of heterogeneity in moods/activities definition across music listeners, and there’s quite a high degree of homogeneity in definition of genre across music listeners.”

“A data set for training QA systems to answer questions about novels”

Presenter: Yonah Mann
Advised by: Chris Callison-Burch and Clayton Greenberg
Goal: “Given a context which is a document or a set of documents, can you teach a system to answer questions in that context?”

“Understanding film characters and their social networks through a gender lens”

Presenter: Weizhen Sheng
Advised by: Ani Nenkova
Conclusion: “Gender affects how characters are portrayed and impacts their role in a social network.”

“Predicting the career success of NBA players from college statistics and draft timing”

Presenter: Jimmy Gao
Advised by: Shane Jenson
Inspiration: “As a diehard basketball fan, I constantly follow the NBA draft, and the draft stakes are pretty high right now. The increase in salary cap: this allows a lot of players to demand very expensive contracts.”

“Screening for mental illness from mobile phone data: a detection of psychotic symptoms”

Presenter: Pedro Petersen
Advised by: Ian Barnett
Asks the question: ” What if it were possible to help tackle the mental health crisis? Even if diagnosed, perhaps a close monitoring could help on treatment.”

“The carbon shock: investor response to the British Columbia carbon tax”

Presenter: Akshay Malhotra
Advised by: Frank Diebold
Takeaway: Market fear is upticked by “the idea that once a carbon tax or some sort of similar legislative policy is introduced, companies [are left with] all these assets that no longer produce value” (“stranded assets”).

“Predicting academic success of Masters students using application data”

Presenter: Karen Shen
Advised by: Boon Thau Loo and Ira Winston
Goals: “Create a data-driven approach to help admissions staff identify which students will struggle to graduate and which students will succeed in the Penn Engineering Masters Program…find which factors in the application profile are most indicative of future academic performance.”


Pivoting to meet critical needs: Penn Health Tech and others unite to produce PPE amidst crisis

HUP Nurses sporting shields produced by the face shields Rapid Response Team

Every year, Penn Health Tech (PHT) hosts a call for proposals that center the organization’s ethos: developing solutions that merge the fields of medicine and engineering.

This year, with the ethos still in the foreground, the specific goals changed.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we rapidly pivoted to create an initiative that we call the Rapid Response Teams,” said Victoria Berenholz, Executive Director of PHT.

Berenholz, together with Brian Litt, Dr. David Meaney and Dr. Kevin Turner, quickly assumed leadership roles.

Each of the 7 teams of the initiative focused on a specific need that included face shields, telemedicine carts, intubation PPE, and emergency ventilators.

Neil Ray, an ER doctor at HUP who worked with the initiative, felt the pressure early in the pandemic’s insurgence.

“It was a very scary time…we didn’t know much about how it was transmitted,” said Ray. “We needed face shields and we needed masks, we just didn’t have the resources to get them.”

Mark Yim – Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Director of the GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) Lab – opted to be a part of the face shield team. Although the need for shields was dire, hospital protocol was constantly changing requirements. Designs should not be too close to the face (so as not to cause fogging), they should be secure and comfortable, and they should be reusable.

A shortage of suitable materials such as PETG, PET, and cellulose acetate meant they might have to get particularly resourceful. Consequently, vendor delays and other hiccups threatened an already tight timeline. The urgency of the situation was ever looming.

“We were thinking we might need to get soda bottles and cut them up,” said Yim. “Clear plastic was why most of the vendors were having problems with [producing] face shields.”

The team didn’t need to resort to recycling bin raids to secure materials, and the process moved forward into production, marked by 3 phases: 1) design and prototype, 2) 3D/foam production and 3) riveted production. The second and third phases followed the team’s progression from their first 2 design types: foam (the easiest to make) and 3D printed, to the riveted. Hospitals’ preferences for the riveted model, in addition to it being easier to construct than the foam, contributed to the production of roughly 10,000 riveted models alone.

At the Pennovation Center, CIS staff member Charity Payne — Associate Director of both the GRASP Lab and PERCH (Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub) — led a team of volunteer students responsible for shield and short band attachment. Afterwards, they were sent to Gaby Alvaro (GRASP Lab) and her team in the Levine Lobby for long band attachment and final assembly. Together they helped contribute to the creation of 1000-2000 shields per day.

“As a result of you guys’ hard work, we’ve had face shields, not only in the emergency department, but in the ICUs, and every floor, “ said ER doctor Ray in a virtual recap meeting. “You were actively impacting patient care, in a time when we needed you guys the most. “

Overall, the initiative was responsible for the production and delivery of over 15,000 shields to 5 Penn Medicine hospitals: Chester, HUP (5,000), Pennsylvania, Presbyterian and Princeton.  Roughly 200-300 volunteers came together to make this happen, most of which hustled into formation to finish assembly of the riveted models at the end of phase 3.

Despite these impactful results, PHT’s ED knows there is still more work to be done.

“[We] continue to source opportunities for new projects,” said Berenholz. “Even as we move out of this acute crisis phase.”

** Click here to submit proposals for the Rapid Response Teams **
** Click here for more in-depth coverage


Spring 2020 Senior Design: Final Presentations

Alumni panelists:

Luke Carlson (Apple), Jenny Chen (Airbnb), Qi Fang (​ IQVIA), Marty Gindi (Signant Health), Alwyn Goodloe (NASA Langley Research Center), John Hewitt (Stanford University), Derek Jobst (RaiseMe), Kavya Lakshminarayanan (Microsoft),  Spencer Lee (Epic Systems), Sudarshan Muralidhar (Igneous Systems), Sneha Rajana,  Ishan Srivastava (Microsoft – Applied AI Group), Joey Schorr (Red Hat, Inc (part of IBM)), Robert Zajac (Two Sigma)


Team 1: RoadX: An Automated Road Defect Inspection System
Members: Mei Chung, Arnav Jagasia, Mark Lewis, Adele Li, Jeffrey Zhou

Team 2: PRECEPTA: Ethical AI for Safer Retail
Members: Xinran Han, Ho-Wa-Jonathan Mak, Philippe Sawaya, Rahul Shekhar

Team 3: Trailblazing in forestry: automatic biomass prediction
Members: Adam Kirsh, John Mings, Ethan Perelmuter, Nathan Rush, Maria Turner

Team 4: Gigfitter: A personalized scheduling App for Gig Economy Workers
Members: Cameron Cabo, Jeffrey Chen, Minjae Kwon, Hao Lei

Team 5: CoParse: Performance-enhancing document reader for legal contracts
Members: Jacob Beckerman, Josh Doman, Sarah Herman, James Xue

Team 6: AMiAI: Using ML Models to Generate Product Reviews
Members: Sherjeel Arif, Srinath Makesh, Aavo Reinvald, Andrew Si

Team 7: Newsfluence: Identifying influential entities in news-related tweets
Members: Jack Buttimer, Matthew Kongsiri, Siyuan Liu 

Team 8: Evidence Retrieval for Ethical Investing
Members: Edward Cohen, Samuel Davis, James Feng, Joseph Goodman, Thomas Kumpf

Team 9: Addressing news bias through browsing behavior
Members: Azzam Althagafi, Roopa Chandra, Claire Donovan, Jennifer Jun

Team 10: Forage: Savings for EBT recipients
Members: Jacob Goldman, Daniel Leiser, Salomon Serfati, Ajay Vasisht 

Team 11: Spry: Aging at home made easier using IoT technology
Members: Tanusri Balla, Megan Kotrappa, Christopher Lin, Emily Tan, Spencer Weiss

Team 12: Compiler optimization for ELM
Members: Paul Palmer, John Powell, Vighnesh Vijay

Team 13: Remora: Transferring resource-intensive computational tasks between personal devices in real time
Members: Sam Akhavan, Hana Pearlman, Weizhen Sheng, Jane Xu

Team 14: Gamifying Physical Therapy Using Virtual Reality
Members: Alexander Chea, Yi Ching, Vijay Ramanujan, Anelia Valtchanova, Leon Wu

Team 15: doBetter deBugging
Members: Amit Gupta, Changwook Shim, Hannah Walsh, Zhijing Wu 

Team 16: Data Synchronization
Members: Suyog Bobhate, Tsz Lam, William Sun, Zeyu Zhao, Zhilei Zheng

Team 17: Personalizing Physical Therapy via Muscular Feedback
Members: Makarios Chung, Delender McCants, Vinaichandra Rachakonda, Saniyah Shaikh, Abdullah Zaini

Team 18: SmartCare
Members: Walter Chen, Kehao Lou, Ria Nagar, Haoxuan Yuan

Team 19: Online OH Queue
Members: Steven Bursztyn, Christopher Fischer, Monal Garg, Karen Shen, Marshall Vail

Team 20: Inventory Management and Predictions for Local Restaurants
Members: Mehmet Alaca, Natasha Gedeon, Maxwell Giancaterino, Deniz Kecik, Juliana Sales

Team 21: Goal-laborator: A social platform that promotes wellness by establishing habits through collaboration and competition
Members: Pranjal Goel, Nishita Jain, Wellington Lee, Shirali Shah

Team 22: Batmanhood: A network driven portfolio manager
Members: Samuel Fleischer, Ranwei Hu, Michael Lu, Saran Mumick, Wei Zhang

Team 23: Empowering the homeless through secure ID storage
Members: James Bigbee, Connor Chong, Steffen Cornwell, Alexander Do, Gregory Kofman

Team 24: Lex: A Community for the Curious
Members: Sydney Essex, Vibhav Jagwani, Rohan Menezes, Pranav Pillai, Harrison Silver

Team 25: Online Music Streaming via Collaborative Recommendations
Members: Somil Govani, Dominic Holmes, Sanjit Kalapatapu, Nihar Patil

Team 26: Adio: Location-based audio advertising for rideshare
Members: Sneha Advani, Bharath Jaladi, Arjun Lal, Romit Nagda, Sneha Rampalli

Team 27: BlockIt: Time blocking, made easy
Members: Griffin Fitzsimmons, Rishab Jaggi, Jaeyoung Lee, Ezaan Mangalji

Team 28: CityRun: The User-friendly scenic route generation
Members: Taras Bukachevskyy, Allison Domm, Luigi Mangione, Sierra Mills, William Morrissy

Team 29: Sparrow: A Travel Itinerary Recommendation System for Groups
Members: Victor Chien, Jesse Cui, Alexander Lichen, Akshay Malhotra, Linzhi Qi

Team 30: Where2Go: Resource Mapping for Non-profits
Members: Vicente Guallpa, Katie Jiang, Stephanie Shi, Erik Zhao

Team 31: PhilaForm: Simplifying the tax abatement process
Members: Stephen Eyerly, Vincent Gubitosi, Anant Kumar, Paul Lorenc, Tianyu Yin, Natalie Wiegand


Technical sophistication: Team 5: CoParse: Performance-enhancing document reader for legal contracts

Creativity: Team 14: Gamifying Physical Therapy Using Virtual Reality

Societal impact: Team 19: Online OH Queue

Alumni’s choice: Team 16: Data Synchronization


Senior Design Presentations Highlight Creativity and Perseverance in Uncertain Times

By Ebonee Johnson

A still from video footage of Team 17 demonstrating their design, Personalizing Physical Therapy via Muscular Feedback.

On Friday, April 24th, CIS students gathered to present their projects at the Spring 2020 Senior Design Alumni Presentations

Due to the current COVID-19 crisis and its subsequent effects, “gathered” took on a virtual connotation: Seniors were asked to attend using video call platform Zoom.

CIS Associate Professor Ani Nenkova facilitated the event, and despite a few technical difficulties, Penn perseverance prevailed. Robert Zajac, one of 14 panelists, believes that the presentations shone bright although communication during these final months of development must have been undoubtedly more difficult.

“Ordinarily you would have a more human element when seeing the project in person,” said Zajac. “But I think the understanding among everyone is that we have to just do the best we can and try extra hard to have empathy for each other.”

Students were separated into breakout rooms (or sessions) on the call, with 3-4 teams presenting in each session for a group of assigned panelists. The seniors utilized PowerPoints to demonstrate their work via frontend and backend analysis, algorithm and tech evaluation, and planned improvements.

Team members included Jack Buttimer, Matthew Kongsiri and Siyuan Liu (Team 7) introduced an interface they called Newsfluence, which hopes to help users recognize their own biases by allowing them to see how media outlets are comparatively reporting. Studies that the group encountered suggested that those who are most susceptible to fake news are “tech illiterate,” so their most prioritized metrics included interface friendliness, intuitiveness and seamlessness.

Like Newsfluence, many of the groups have working models of the projects currently available.

The Online OH Queue project – winner in the social impact category and created by team members Steven Bursztyn, Christopher Fischer, Monal Garg, Karen Shen and Marshall Vail (Team 19) – has already been effectively helping students and faculty schedule electronic office hours during this global crisis.

“It is rare in this class to have a project deployed and used by 1000+ people before the end of the Spring semester,” said Nenkova via email. “This year is a first for that.” 

Zajac, who received both his BSE and MSE in Computer Science in 2019, sat in on the presentation of a document reader called CoParse. Group members Jacob Beckerman, Josh Doman, Sarah Herman and James Xue (Team 5) posed the question, “What if we could navigate contracts like we navigate the web?” and replied with an app that allowed for just that. The project was awarded the panel’s technical sophistication honor.

“CoParse was a smart legal document reader that used natural language processing to build a rich representation of documents,” said Zajac. “It was impressive because the team received interest from industry in trying the product, which is not always common for senior design projects.”

Zajac, currently a Software Engineer with company Two Sigma, imparts words of wisdom to future presenters:

“Start your presentation with the problem you’re solving and explain why it’s meaningful! If we don’t first agree on why the problem is meaningful, we can’t begin to talk about the technical solution.”

The complete list of winners is as follows:

Technical sophistication: Team 5 (Jacob Beckerman, Josh Doman, Sarah Herman and James Xue): CoParse: Performance-enhancing document reader for legal contracts

Creativity: Team 14 (Alexander Chea, Yi Ching, Vijay Ramanujan, Anelia Valtchanova, Leon Wu): Gamifying Physical Therapy Using Virtual Reality

Societal impact: Team 19 (Steven Bursztyn, Christopher Fischer, Monal Garg, Karen Shen, Marshall Vail): Online OH Queue

Alumni’s choice: Team 16 (Suyog Bobhate, Tsz Lam, William Sun, Zeyu Zhao, Zhilei Zheng): Data Synchronization

Click HERE for a full list of participants and panelists