USD Students Mine Data for Silver

Two University of San Diego students placed second in an international student competition for intelligent data analysis.

John Lopez and Cameron Askew, both undergraduate computer science majors, competed in the 2011 Data Mining Cup competition against 104 teams from 83 universities and more than 20 countries. The competition, sponsored by Prudsys, AG, a leading software firm based in Germany, was open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Data mining is a growing of computer science that involves extracting and analyzing patterns from large data sets – often millions of records – by combining methods from statistics, artificial intelligence and database management. The field has many applications in business, finance, national security and other areas. In the main phase of the six-week competition, the teams were asked to sift through millions of records from a shopping web site and find and accurate way of recommending products to a user, based on products that he or she has already shown an interest in or purchased.

USD’s team finished in the top 10 and was invited to a two-day conference in Leipzig, Germany, where the winners were announced last week (June 20). They will share a prize of 1500 Euros, approximately $2,150. A team from Germany finished in first place.

“I’m very proud of our students,” said Eric Jiang, USD professor of computer science and mathematics who taught the data mining class this spring where Lopez and Askew entered the competition as their final research project. “They put in a lot of time and effort and have a bright future ahead of them.” Data mining is a difficult course that only a few institutions offer at the undergraduate level, Jiang added. 

Lopez, 20, who is from North Barrington, Ill., and Askew, 25, who is from Saratoga in northern California, said most of  the teams they met consisted of five to 10 graduate or PhD students and that they were the youngest and smallest team, as well as the only team representing the United States to make the top 10.

"Attending the conference was our dream from the beginning,” said Lopez who plans to  graduate two years from now. “We tried our best and were successful and that is all either of us could have asked for.”  Askew will graduate next spring. 

Jiang said the victory also “reflects well on the quality of our computer science program and should help us to promote and attract even more students to major in computer science.” Google and Intel are just a few of the firms that have hired computer science students in recent years, he said. 

About the University of San Diego 
The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls some 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The fall 2007 establishment of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies brings the University's total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Leadership and Education Sciences, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. In February 2016, USD launched the public phase of Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represents the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university and builds upon the strong philanthropic momentum achieved by USD in recent years. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.