Six Business Analytics Grad Students Present at Analytics Challenge in California

Business Analytics grad students pose with advisor Asil Oztekin Image by Ed Brennen
Assoc. Prof. Asil Oztekin, center, and business analytics grad students, from left, Tri Mai, Moiz Khan, Kasey Mazza, Christine Vaudo, Rekha Balan and Neha Ajgaonkar are heading to Anaheim, Calif., for the 2017 Analytics Challenge.

By Ed Brennen

With hundreds of teams from around the world vying for just 10 finalist spots, it’s quite an accomplishment for a business school to have a team chosen to compete in the Teradata University Network’s annual Analytics Challenge.

So it’s understandable why the Manning School of Business is especially proud to have three teams competing in this year’s event.

Led by Assoc. Prof. Asil Oztekin of the Operations and Information Systems department, three pairs of graduate students from the Master of Science in Business Analytics program headed Anaheim, Calif., for the 2017 Analytics Challenge on Oct. 22-23.

The three teams – Moiz Khan and Tri Mai, Neha Ajgaonkar and Rekha Balan, and Kasey Mazza and Christine Vaudo – presented their research to professionals from the business analytics world. They also presented their project posters at the Teradata Partners Conference, where they were be able to network with Big Data experts from more than 900 companies and 45 countries. Conference attendees vote on an overall winner, as well as a people’s choice award and a best analytics and visualization award.

“The students and I are so proud to be representing UMass Lowell and the Manning School of Business in Anaheim,” says Oztekin, who began working with 10 teams of students on research projects in his Decision Analytics class last spring. From those, he chose the top three projects and nominated them for the Analytics Challenge.

UMass Lowell, which launched its MS in Business Analytics program in 2016, is the only institution with more than one finalist. The River Hawks competed against teams from Auburn University, Cal State Fullerton, Loyola University Chicago, the University of Cincinnati, the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Western Kentucky University and NIDA Thailand.

Kasey Mazza and Christine Vaudo practice their presentation Image by Ed Brennen
Business analytics graduate students Kasey Mazza, left, and Christine Vaudo practice their presentation for the 2017 Analytics Challenge for students at Bentley University in Waltham.

The students used data analytics methods and tools to conduct research projects on a wide variety of topics.

For their project “Summer Olympic Games: A Holistic Data Analysis of Factors Influencing Women’s Performance,” Mazza and Vaudo looked at how a country’s social, economic, political, health and education conditions impact the performance of their female athletes in the Olympics.

Mazza couldn’t believe it when she learned they’d be presenting the project in Anaheim.

“I started crying and screaming when I found out,” says Mazza, who manages marketing databases as a business analyst at Acuris Global. The Billerica native transferred to the Manning School in January from Northeastern University.

“The Manning School program is a lot more hands-on. I’m learning real-life skills,” says Mazza, who will spend an entire week at the Teradata conference. “I’m excited to see all the different industries represented. There will be such great networking opportunities.”

For their project “Loving the Odds: Matching Love Interest via Data Analytics,” Khan and Mai used machine learning-based data analytics to examine one of life’s great mysteries: What causes two people to fall in love? Using data from an experiment conducted at the Columbia Business School that looked at racial preferences in speed dating, Khan and Mai added their own mathematical models to better predict dating success.

Assoc. Prof. Asil Oztekin speaks to students Image by Ed Brennen
Assoc. Prof. Asil Oztekin addresses students before their final practice presentations in front of business students at Bentley University.
“We picked the topic because we’re interested in human behavior,” Mai says. “People think that romance is just about the feeling, but we try our best with technology to see if romance can be explained in a logical way or not.”

“We want to achieve 85 percent accuracy. The more accurate it is, the more reliable your model becomes,” adds Khan, who looks forward to representing UML on a national stage. “It’s a big thing for us, the program and the university.”

Ajgaonkar and Balan analyzed why people don’t keep their doctor’s appointments in their project, “Data Mining-based Predictive Analytics of Missed Medical Appointments (No-Shows).”

“It’s a huge financial loss for the healthcare industry when patients miss their appointments,” says Ajgaonkar, whose research looked at a dataset of 300,000 medical appointment records and 15 variables including the day of the week of the appointment, how long the patient waited for the appointment and whether they received reminders. “Based on these factors, we hope to provide a successful strategy that the industry can follow to reduce losses.”

The project has already drawn accolades for Ajgaonkar and Balan. They won the Best Poster Presentation Award at the university’s 20th annual Student Research & Community Engagement Symposium in April.

“The project isn’t just about learning and getting good grades,” Balan says. “This gives us much-needed exposure to the industry and scholars at an international event.”

“We hope to make UMass Lowell proud,” Ajgaonkar adds.

The Teradata University Network provides free online learning tools to more than 45,000 students around the world, majoring in everything from information systems, finance and accounting to marketing, management and computer science. The Teradata Corporation is a leading provider of database-related products and services.