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Obama’s chief data scientist to speak at Ohio State

DJ Patil, influential in data, technology and design, will discuss how data can help solve pressing world issues at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Mershon Auditorium. Credit: Courtesy of Chartwell Speakers & Literary Agency

The first U.S. chief data scientist, appointed by President Barack Obama, is coming to Ohio State. DJ Patil, influential in data, technology and design, will discuss how data can help solve pressing world issues at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Mershon Auditorium.

Patil previously worked in many roles before being appointed by Obama, such as the University of Maryland, Skype, LinkedIn Corporation and the Department of Defense. He is well-known for his extensive work in the U.S. federal government where he established health-care programs, criminal justice reforms and other data-related policies.

The lecture is sponsored by the Provost Discovery Themes Lecturer Program, which brings nationally recognized individuals to Ohio State to address topics related to research, scholarly work, innovation and public policy.

Stephen Myers, associate vice provost for outreach and engagement, said Patil suits the program’s initiative because he’s a noted expert in the field of data analytics.

“We want to create a conversation and curiosity and involvement around this topic so that we can make the best use of this gift we have, this technology, and use it in the most productive and positive way,” Myers said. “[Patil’s] going to really reveal some of those kinds of exciting things.”

Harvey Miller, professor in the Department of Geography and director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, said he agrees with Myers about Patil’s visit starting an important conversation and furthering OSU’s data science investment.

“We’ve hired dozens of faculty across campus and data scientists in the last five years and have a new Translational Data Analytics Institute, so Ohio State is trying to join other universities to be at the forefront of this revolution in data-driven science and data-driven decision-making,” Miller said.

Data science is useful not only to scientists; it’s also useful to everyday people. Data is used in health care, transportation in smart cities, population sustainability, ethics and more.

“We’re living in a data-driven world,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of data out there and so we need data science in order to figure out how do we take this data and make better decisions in the real world.”

Myers and Miller said they encourage students, faculty and the Columbus community to attend Patil’s lecture because there’s something for everyone to take away from the topics that will be discussed.

“You get access to some of best people in the world across the board in different areas, and it’s really a great part of your college education to be able to hear someone like this,” Miller said. “I would encourage as many students as possible to hear from him.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, a third-year in data analytics, is taking their advice about getting involved with the data science conversation.

“For people already engaged in technology and analytics, I hope they consider the impact data science as a whole can have, and the impact they can have personally,” Gilbert said. “For everyone, I hope the lecture encourages a curiosity for and creativity in problem-solving, technology and analytics.”

The lecture is free and open to public, but registration is required. Participants can register at https://discovery.osu.edu/provosts-lecture-series.

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