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Class of 2021

Photo of Zhonghao Dennis Zhao

Zhonghao (Dennis) recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in May 2020 with a B.S. degree in Statistics & Computer Science. The interdisciplinary academic background in Statistics and Computer Science lighted his interest in data analytics. Besides, the undergraduate coursework in Database System, Data Structure, Advanced Data Analytics, Probability, Numerical Analysis, and Methods of Applied Statistics has provided him with the ability to fully participate in every part of the data analysis process.

During his time at U of I, Dennis participated in multiple research projects and internships to gain a deeper insight into solving real-world issues with data analytics. At the Illinois Geometry Lab, Dennis led a team of five to build a random forest model that helps the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a gait disorder that has no strong preexisting individual diagnostic criteria. Under the guidance of Professor Bo Li, Dennis worked on an NSF funded data challenge research project to develop an automatic identification system. Dennis participated in the 2019 NSF ATD + AMPS conference at Washington D.C and presented posters. His team's approach was ranked as one of the top algorithms. Later, as a data science intern at the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research, Dennis faced the challenge of analyzing large scale geospatial data for the first time. Dennis gathered millions of day/night luminosity data from NASA to uncover the possible connection between such data and religiosity in Turkey. Impressed by the power of big data, Dennis became a fan of NoSQL databases. He utilized MongoDB, along with SQL Server to build an NBA database web application during his database course. This summer, his analyst internship with Ivy Capital further allowed him to delve deeper into the DBMS market in the U.S.

Excited to join the MSiA program at Northwestern, Dennis hoped to fully utilize the industry practice resources in the program to develop himself into an industry-ready data scientist. Dennis has a strong faith in data-driven decision-making. He believes the power of data science will benefit people under almost every scenario in the future. In particular, Dennis is passionate about exploring more in healthcare analytics as well as big data platforms. He is eager to make an impact in the real world with data analytics.