IST student files patent, sees bright future in the ‘golden age of data science’

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For Penn State undergraduate student Yuya Ong, data sciences isn’t just his major — it’s a way of thinking about life.

“[I’m able to] understand and conceptualize the link between how humans develop an understanding of the world around them,” he said. “Data science is the generator that will leverage all of that from now and into the future.”

Born in Japan and raised in New Jersey, Ong originally intended to pursue a degree in computer science. But when he heard Penn State was launching an intercollege Data Sciences program, with an option in Applied Data Sciences offered by the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), he was immediately intrigued.

“I was more into the processes and data at first,” he explained. “What brought me to data sciences was getting a better understanding of the world around us. I wanted more hands-on learning and to become the bridge which unifies theory and practice together.”

As his time in the field grows, he now foresees the reach of big data touching every corner of the globe.

“We are creating a world where complexity increases exponentially as machines and computers take over more sophisticated tasks from humans,” he said.

Data sciences, he said, is unique in the way it’s able to fuse together computational analytics to find answers to humanity-driven, philosophical questions. Ong is already exploring these topics in his undergraduate research, in the research group of IST professor James Wang.

Said Wang, “[Ong] has been eager to learn about cutting-edge computing and statistical methods, and to apply them in tackling difficult real-world problems.”

Wang’s research, like many in the field, combines machine learning and algorithms to help innovate new technologies. He’s particularly interested in codifying emotions, a Herculean effort to help computers understand the complex world of humanity by classifying human responses to various stimuli.

“I’ve been interested in emotional analytics and understanding how someone feels and better leveraging those signals to improve human-computer interactions,” Ong said. “One of the research works I’ve been doing is how can we model the various spectrums of human emotions [through technology].”

Wang, who was “impressed by [Ong’s] passion in research and his technical readiness, [even] during the interview,” brought Ong on as a research assistant under a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project in the first semester of his freshman year.

“We are in the golden age of data sciences. The opportunities are endless for those who can master the art and science of data.”

—Yuya Ong, data sciences student at Penn State

Recently, Ong co-authored his first paper and presented findings at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference for Cloud Technology, one of the leading conferences in the field. Based on work he created as an intern at the IBM Almaden Research Center during the summer of 2016, this research focused on developing tools to detect sensitive documents on cloud-based servers.

“Today, many industries, institutions and individuals are making heavy use of this cloud-based technology to facilitate their day-to-day operations, which makes it critical for these services to ensure that users’ privacy and security are well maintained,” he explained.

His approach creates a “digital audit” of files to automatically determine what protections a document needs using "deep learning," a method that is better able to mimic how a human would analyze information. Ong recently filed a patent for the technology and was able to present a working prototype to IBM’s clients.

“It was really a rewarding experience to see how my work has impacted many areas of the industry,” he reflected.

As he looks towards his graduation in the spring of 2019, Ong isn’t sure where he’ll be applying his talents, but he knows the demand for data scientists far exceeds the supply.

“We are in the golden age of data sciences," he said. "The opportunities are endless for those who can master the art and science of data.”

As one of the fastest growing and innovating fields, Ong knows his unique perspective can be used to help navigate the future. 

“Whether that would be in technology, medicine, security or finance, I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead of me and how the effect of cross-pollinating various disciplines can help to solve problems using the power of data.”

The Data Sciences degree program at Penn State is part of an intercollege initiative between the College of Information Sciences and Technology, the College of Engineering, and the Eberly College of Science, to meet the need for professionals who can make sense of big data. To learn more about the program, visit datasciences.psu.edu.

Last Updated August 10, 2017