Quinlan undergrads honored at global data analytics conference


Two undergraduate teams traveled to Atlanta for the 2016 Teradata Partners World Conference student competitions. Professor Svetlozar Nestorov is pictured in the center of the first row. (Courtesy of Teradata Partners)

By Adriana Geday  |  Student reporter

Two teams of Quinlan undergraduate students were chosen as finalists to attend the competitive 2016 Teradata Partners World Conference–and one team took home a top prize.

The data analytics conference brings together more than 4,000 participants from Fortune 500 companies, technology startups, research labs, and universities.

The conference prominently featured two student competitions sponsored by the Teradata University Network: the Business Analytics Competition and the Data Challenge Competition.

Two student teams began the competition in late April 2016 and were chosen as finalists in June. Quinlan’s teams—which were the only two finalists comprised of undergraduate students—went head-to-head with 14 teams of graduate students at the international conference, proving their hard work to the judges through presentations and poster exhibitions.

“For the students, it’s a great opportunity to experience a real-world problem, and it’s really amazing how far these projects have come along,” says Professor Svetlozar Nestorov. “The main goal has always been to get students thinking more in depth about data analytics and to continue to develop their leadership and career skills.”

Nestorov traveled to Atlanta with the students for the final round of the competition. He and fellow professors Nenad Jukić and Abhishek Sharma worked with the students throughout the process.

Business Analytics Competition

The Quinlan team in the Business Analytics Challenge received the “Best Presentation” award, which was determined by a vote from conference attendees—a “People’s Choice” award. Teams were judged by conference participants on their presentation and the poster boards displayed in the exhibitor’s hall. Oklahoma State University received the award for “Overall Winner.”

For the competition, teams were tasked with finding a dataset and presenting analytical insights on their topic. Quinlan’s team focused on a dataset revolving around kidney transplantation. The dataset was provided by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), a U.S. government entity, working alongside the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Team member Mit Patel says that once they received the data set, the team immediately began preparing the proposal for the competition. From sending updated visuals to validating a model, the team communicated through group chats and in person to develop a coherent strategy.

“Given that 70 teams applied for this year’s competition, the most Teradata has ever received, succeeding would require us to function as a unit. As a group we met throughout the summer, when internships and jobs permitted,” says Patel.

He adds that the award is truly a testament to the quality of Quinlan and receiving it has been much a lesson in management as it has been in data analytics.

Data Challenge Competition 

The Data Challenge Competition tasks students to process information and generate recommendations for a nonprofit organization. This year, the organization was Hire Heroes, which helps veterans find jobs.

The team decided to take a marketing and development approach and analyzed how social media’s relation to registration data, donation trends, and post activity times had the potential to give the organization an immense boost in marketing reach, says student Tayva Vollan.

“The most rewarding part of the entire competition was when the chief programs officer of Hire Heroes said that they had already implemented some of our suggestions and had seen a positive impact in their marketing reach,” says Vollan. “It was so rewarding knowing that our work was going toward a good cause, and hearing how appreciative he was of our suggestions definitely made the eight months of hard work worth it.”

A rewarding experience

Patel from the Data Analytics team agrees that all the work was worthwhile.

“Attending the competition and the conference overall has been the most rewarding experience as a student of the Quinlan School of Business,” says Patel. “So thank you, Quinlan, for making my Loyola experience so engaging.”