Data Science Day 2024 Speakers and Panelists

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Keynote Presentation: Beyond Models - Applying Data Science and AI Effectively

Alfred Spector
Visiting Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Senior Advisor, Blackstone

Applying data science and artificial intelligence effectively requires a considerably broader focus than just data and machine learning.  Based on the speaker and his co-authors' recent book (Data Science in Context, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2022), this presentation distills these additional challenges into a rubric and illustrates its application with a multitude of examples from diverse domains. Beyond the rubric, the presentation also presents useful frameworks to help in making the complex trade-offs that are often inherent in AI and DS solutions.  While the talk should have practical value to those applying AI and DS techniques, it also illustrates contemporary research challenges.


Dr. Alfred Spector is a Visiting Scholar at MIT and a Senior Advisor at Blackstone. His career has led him from innovation in large-scale, networked computing systems to broad engineering and research leadership. Recently, he co-authored a textbook, “Data Science in Context: Foundations, Challenges, Opportunities.”

Previously, Dr. Spector was CTO and Head of Engineering at Two Sigma Investments. Before that, he spent eight years as VP of Research and Special Initiatives at Google, and he held various senior-level positions at IBM, including as global VP of Services and Software Research and global CTO of IBM’s Software Business. Earlier in his career, he founded Transarc Corporation, a pioneer in distributed transaction processing and wide-area file systems, and he was a tenured professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Spector is a Hertz Fellow and also a Fellow of both the ACM and the IEEE. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Spector won the 2001 IEEE Kanai Award for Distributed Computing and the 2016 ACM Software Systems Award. In 2018-19, Dr. Spector lectured widely as a Phi Beta Kappa Scholar (for example, on the growing importance of computer science across all disciplines based on the evocative phrase, “CS+X”). He has been a member of the ACM Turing Award Committee and has done national service through chairing the NSF’s CISE Advisory Board and membership on the Army and now the Defense Science Boards. He has had extensive international experience due to broad responsibilities at IBM, Google, and Two Sigma. Dr. Spector obtained a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford and a B.A. in applied math from Harvard. 

Panel Discussion: "Responsible Uses of Data Science in the Workforce: Industry Perspectives"

Steve Wisniewski, Moderator
Vice Provost of Budget and Analytics, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Wisniewski is Vice Provost for Budget and Analytics and is also Professor of Epidemiology and co-director of the Epidemiology Data Center (EDC). He holds secondary appointments in psychiatry and clinical and translational sciences.

Vice Provost Wisniewski earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Applied Statistics from The Ohio State University, and a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh. He joined the Pitt faculty as an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in 1998, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2003, and Professor of Epidemiology in 2010. From 2006 to 2014, he was the Associate Dean for Research and Senior Associate Dean in the Graduate School of Public Health. He was named Associate Vice Provost for Planning in 2015, where he was involved with advancing strategic planning efforts throughout the University.

During his tenure at the University of Pittsburgh, Vice Provost Wisniewski has developed a successful research program focusing on the design and analysis of clinical trials, specifically, multi-center clinical trials. He has been involved in the design and analysis of seminal trials evaluating the efficacy of treatments in many different areas including endophthalmitis, depression, bipolar disorder, and traumatic brain injury. As co-director of the EDC, Vice Provost Wisniewski helps guide the Center’s efforts for collaborative, multi-disciplinary research projects.

Chris Belasco
Senior Manager, Digital Services and Chief Data Officer for the City of Pittsburgh

Chris Belasco is the Senior Manager, Digital Services and Chief Data Officer for the City of Pittsburgh in the Department of Innovation and Performance, where he manages analytic, data engineering, and software development efforts to improve City operations. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Previously, he ran a unit at the University of Pittsburgh that conducted large impact evaluations on democracy and governance foreign assistance for the United States Agency for International Development. Belasco received his PhD in Public and International Affairs, Master of Public and International Affairs, BS in Information Science, and BA in Sociology from the University of Pittsburgh. During his spare time, he likes to cook, travel, cycle, and visit museums with his two daughters. A 20-year resident of Bloomfield, he can often be found working to restore his old house.

Bridget Fitzpatrick
Manager of Data Science, Dick's Sporting Goods

Bridget Fitzpatrick is a Manager of Data Science at DICK’s Sporting Goods, where she leads an eight-person team delivering production-ready machine learning models. With nearly ten years of experience in data science and analytics, Fitzpatrick strives to find elegant, ethical solutions to complex problems within the retail industry. She is a graduate of Duquesne University and Boston University, with degrees in Economics, and a member of the Women in Tech chapter at DICK’s Sporting Goods. In her free time, she is an avid reader who can often be found in her local coffeeshop with a novel and a cup of coffee.


Mary Beth Green
Chief Innovation Officer, Sheetz

Mary Beth Green is Head of Innovation at Sheetz, based in Altoona, PA with offices in Pittsburgh. She leads the innovation function, Incubator program and a multi-disciplinary team to create sustainable growth and profitability by transforming the market and meeting evolving customer needs.

Green brings extensive experience igniting innovation, mentoring Inventors and Entrepreneurs and building strategic connections that drive economic development and strong ROI. She guides teams through idea development, commercialization and launch optimization. Robust networks of R&D experts, potential partners, investors and startups help foster beneficial opportunities and new innovation channels.

Green earned a BA in Economics, University of Illinois, a Master’s in Public and International Affairs from GSPIA, University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

SheLeads Panel Discussion: “Women in Data Science: Challenges, Opportunities and Empowerment”

Audrey Russo, Moderator
President & CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council

Since 2007, Audrey Russo has led the technology business sector for SWPA as President & CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the oldest & largest technology trade association in North America. Russo facilitates strong interaction across all sectors of the economy.  She has an MPA from Syracuse University and a background in IT, operations & finance, having worked at Alcoa, Reynolds Metals & MAYA Design.  

Russo is currently serving as a Board of Director of MW Industries. She is also an active civic leader by serving on the executive committee of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC). Also serves on the Highmark Business Advisory Board, Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute Advisory Board and the PA Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) as Commission Member.  

Russo is both professionally and personally active in the tech and innovation start up ecosystem, serving as a mentor, champion, convener, and investor in companies. She is committed to ensuring women and underrepresented individuals in tech are connected to ensure business growth. Additionally, Russo is a sought-after speaker and radio show host, presenting ideas about Pittsburgh, as well as the future of tech, people and places and the global economy.   

Shreya Agrawal
Senior, Computer & Data Science, University of Pittsburgh
President, Women in Computer Science (WiCS)

Shreya Agrawal is currently a senior, double majoring in Computer Science and Data Science. Being a president of WiCS (Women in Computer Science), she is dedicated to fostering an engaging and inclusive community for fellow students within the tech field. Agrawal has had three internships up to this point, one of which being a Data Science internship for the University of Pittsburgh Athletics department. These experiences have taught her the importance of data in the real world and have served as a steppingstone for her as she gets more involved in this field. Upon graduating, she is looking forward to bringing the skills she has attained throughout her time at the university to her new role as a Data Analyst at Vanguard. In her free time, Agrawal enjoys trying out new restaurants, reading, and spending time outdoors.

Sandra Brandon
Research Liaison/Leader of Strategy and Innovation, Office of the CIO, University of Pittsburgh 

 Dr. Sandra Brandon currently holds the newly developed position of Research Liaison/Leader of Strategy and Innovation in the Office of the CIO. She is the former Staff for the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences (IS) / School of Computing and Information. Previously serving as Crayola’s Vice President and Chief Information Officer, as well as a member of the Executive Operating Committee from 2002-2010, she led the company’s global information technology reorganization, transforming a traditional IS department into the Crayola IS Team.  

In 2009, Dr. Brandon completed the Six Sigma training at Villanova University.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Leadership from Duquesne University, and her Bachelor Degree in Business Administration at Kent State University.  Dr. Brandon most recently completed her doctoral degree in Administrative and Policy Study at the School of Education, University of Pittsburgh in January 2016.

Dr. Brandon is an active industry speaker and advisor as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, she completed a distinguished tour of duty for the non-profit community as the Pennsylvania Wing Commander for Civil Air Patrol (CAP), overseeing the strategic, operational, tactical and financial operations. Her final duties prior to retiring from CAP were serving her nation by being the first National CAP IT Manager and as a founding member of the National Mentoring Program. 

Amanda Brodish
Associate Vice Provost for Data Analytics, University of Pittsburgh

As Associate Vice Provost for Data Analytics, Amanda Brodish works to promote data-informed decision-making across the University. Toward this end, Dr. Brodish oversees the Office of Institutional Research—the official reporting office for the University of Pittsburgh— and the Data Analytics Team. The Data Analytics Team produces reports, dashboards, and analyses—predictive and descriptive—to improve operational efficiency and student outcomes. In addition, Dr. Brodish leads the implementation of Pathways, Pitt’s student success and advising platform. This platform provides real-time data to advisors, including predictive analytics around the probability of key student-related outcomes, to help them leverage data to support students.

Dr. Brodish started at the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 as a Data Analyst in the Office of the Provost. In 2016, she formed the Data Analytics Team to support data-informed decision-making initiatives throughout the University. In 2021, Dr. Brodish was named Associate Vice Provost for Data Analytics when the Office of Institutional Research was moved from the CFO’s Office to the Office of the Provost under her supervision.

Dr. Brodish earned her PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison examining the impact of stereotypes on women’s math performance. Before joining the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Brodish completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, conducting research on the impact of racial discrimination on health and well-being.

Rosta Farzan
Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh
Associate Professor, School of Computing and Information, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Rosta Farzan is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the School of Computing and Information, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Informatics and Networked Systems. She completed her PhD in Intelligent Systems Program at the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. She joined the faculty of School of Computing and Information in 2012. Dr. Farzan’s research focuses on partnering with local marginalized communities to design, implement, and deploy technology that centers individuals and communities that have been historically excluded from the space. She is particularly interested in broadening participation in how data is created, collected, and translated into action and empowering marginalized communities in stewarding their data and telling their data stories. Dr. Farzan’s work has been funded by federal agencies, foundations, and industry and has resulted in publications in high impact venues in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, Social Computing, and Information Science, including a number of best paper awards at major conferences. Her contribution to community-engaged scholarship was awarded by the University in 2022 Chancellor Distinguished Service award. 

Marcela Gomez
Director of Research Analytics, Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research, University of Pittsburgh

Marcela Gomez is the Director of Research Analytics at the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research. She has earned a PhD in Information Sciences and a Master's in Telecommunications, both from Pitt. Dr. Gomez is a former Fulbright scholar, and her research focuses on studying electromagnetic spectrum management from a techno-economic perspective. In her professional life, she wears two hats: one as a researcher and the other as a data scientist. In her data role, Dr. Gomez has contributed to the development of a research-data pipeline for the University of Pittsburgh, developed analytics processes to extract insights from data, and researched effective data communication strategies. She integrates a multidisciplinary approach into her data work by combining analytics methods, storytelling, design, and visualization to ensure data is presented to different audiences in an accurate and compelling manner.​

Nalyn Siripong
Senior Data Scientist, University of Pittsburgh Information Technology

As a Data Scientist with Pitt IT, Dr. Nalyn Siripong works on development of machine learning models to improve efficiency of business processes. Prior to joining Pitt IT, she worked at the University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) as a statistician, supporting clinical researchers, as well as larger collaborations with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Covid-19 research with the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

While she has minimal experience in the corporate world, Dr. Siripong has conducted cost-effectiveness and policy research using epidemiological models with several international agencies, including branches of the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM).

Dr. Siripong received a Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University in 2017. Before that, she received a Master of Science in Health Econimics from Chulalongkorn University and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Organic Chemistry and Economics from Wellesley College.