Pioneers in Data Science

KENNESAW, Ga. | Aug 5, 2019

Two graduates earn highest degrees in field

Jie Hao and Bogdan Gadidov may not consider themselves pioneers, but in the world of data science these doctoral students are. The pair are among the first data scientists to earn the highest academic degree in the field – a Ph.D. in Analytics and Data Science from Kennesaw State – at the University’s July 25 Commencement ceremony.

Jie Hao and Bogdan Gadidov
Over the course of the past four years, Hao and Gadidov have learned to translate large, structured and unstructured, complex data into information for innovation, research and improved decision-making. Hao is the first woman to earn the data science doctorate at KSU.
“I didn’t know what data science was before I applied here,” said Hao, who learned about KSU’s interdisciplinary doctoral program, housed within the Analytics and Data Science Institute, while earning her master’s in mathematics at East Tennessee State University. “But I knew I wanted a major that I could continue to work in statistics.”
During her time at Kennesaw State, Hao embraced that goal, focusing on research in statistical analysis, specifically as it applied to bioinformatics and “biomarkers for human disease.” 
The 28-year old from Beijing, China said she believes that understanding these factors could lead to more personalized treatment for cancer since scientists, including data scientists, are able to dissect the gene base and biological mechanisms in cancer.
Recently hired as a post-doctoral researcher for the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Hao will soon help to bridge the gap between clinicians and academic researchers. She said that her ability to communicate and collaborate with the interdisciplinary training in computer science, statistics and math – skills that she polished while at KSU – were likely reasons she was hired by the Ivy League institution.
Both Hao and Gadidov are excited about the new career possibilities that KSU’s data science degree has garnered for them, and both said that having a data science Ph.D. provides the flexibility and analytical depth for them to succeed in any profession.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in the medical space, studying geolocation of truck drivers or understanding Twitter followers, we use the same techniques in all applications of data science,” Gadidov said. “Data is agnostic, and numbers simply can be applied in different frameworks.” 
Hao and Gadidov each found their inspiring moment during their Ph.D. program when first published in peer-reviewed journals and presenting their work at national conferences. Hao earned recognition at the IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedicine, ultimately winning a travel grant, which was awarded to students from some of the nation’s top research universities. 
In addition to publishing research in medical journals about online physician rates and survival analysis for patients, Gadidov has taught more than nine different math and data science courses and also published a chapter in the book, “Guide to Big Data Applications,” on the use of online Yelp ratings for fast-food restaurant chains.
“The fact that Kennesaw State is graduating the first generation of Analytics and Data Science Ph.D.’s is a great honor and responsibility,” said Program Director Sherrill Hayes. “Jie and Bogdan are extraordinary individuals who will use their talents in analytics and data science to be thought leaders in one of the fastest growing sectors in industry and academia.”

Like Hao, Gadidov worked on applied research projects during his program tenure, and his dissertation focused on nonparametric statistics and regression methods as well as time series analysis, using scatterplots, a type of graph, to uncover patterns to better understand, evaluate and use specific data.

“In data science, we can find the pattern in data in different areas,” Gadidov said. “I can work in different fields and professions and apply the same data science techniques in different spaces.”
Gadidov currently is teaching online for the University of New Hampshire in analytics and data science and plans to continue teaching at the college level, but does not rule out working in the private sector as a data scientist.
After earning his master’s degree in statistics at KSU in 2015, the same year that the University was approved to offer the degree, Gadidov decided to apply to the Ph.D. program. Both of his parents have doctoral degrees in math and statistics, and he said that it seemed natural for him to follow in their footsteps. His mother was a KSU statistics professor before she passed away in 2015, and his father works for Georgia-Pacific.
“Seeing my dad so proud of me made it all worth it,” said Gadidov, a 29-year old from Roswell. “Considering how popular data science is, it makes me thankful for Kennesaw State for putting this program together.”
For these two graduates, their work in KSU’s data science program is a pivotal step in the expanding field of data science worldwide.  
“We are able to innovate and try something new, and be the pioneers in this field,” Hao said. “I learned everything at KSU to build my career path, and in four years of study, I have fulfilled my dream of being a Ph.D.”

—Tiffany Capuano

Photograhy by Jason Getz

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit