Rising to the Challenge: Rice D2K Lab students utilize machine learning to tackle real-world data science challenges

Projects sponsored by industry, community organizations, and medical researchers compete at the D2K Showcase

D2K Showcase Fall 2020

The Rice D2K Capstone connects students with project sponsors to tackle challenging data sets that culminates in an end of semester Showcase competition. The projects that students and sponsors worked on over the Fall semester included using data science tools to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on emergency medical services; increasing the detection rate for life-threatening heart disease; detecting anomalies from enormous amounts of data for companies; and bridging the academic performance gap in remote learning.

These are just some of the projects student teams presented in the Fall 2020 D2K Showcase. Held virtually on Dec. 9, the interactive showcase brought together nearly two hundred participants of Rice data science students and faculty, industry partners, researchers, and data science experts from across the country. Student teams from the Data to Knowledge (D2K) Lab presented their end-of-semester work and competed for prizes.

The winner of the D2K Showcase Fall 2020 was Team Cardiac Signals, who analyzed data sets from Texas Children’s Hospital to detect subtle changes in the heart before a cardiac arrest occurs. The team members are all undergraduate seniors studying electrical and computer engineering: Aneel Damaraju, Frank Yang, Chiraag Kaushik, Andrew Pham, Kunal Rai and Tucker Reinhart. Damaraju and Yang are also physics majors; Pham and Reinhart are also computer science majors.

“Our team found this project very compelling and hope our results will be useful in cardiac event prediction at Texas Children’s Hospital,” shared Yang.

Awarded honorable mention was Team OpenStax, who explored a data science approach to reducing academic achievement gaps among high school students. Team members are: Connor Rothschild, a senior social policy analysis major; Diksha Gupta, a senior studying computer science; Jessica Wang, a professional master’s student in statistics; Parker Graham, a senior statistics and computer science major; and Stephanie Xie, a senior studying computer science and cognitive sciences.

The audience choice award went to Team Intterra, who focused on community risk reduction for fire and emergency medical services by assessing and analyzing emergency incident data across a wide area. Team members are Patrick Kidd, a senior economics major; Angela Lin, a senior computational and applied mathematics major; Emily Wang, a senior studying statistics and mathematical economic analysis; Ray William, a junior computer science major; and Sean Zhang, a senior statistics and sociology major.


“The D2K Lab faculty, students and staff have done such an amazing job at really spearheading some of the efforts in data science. And it's why we are putting such a high emphasis on expanding not only the opportunities in data science but the infrastructure to allow pedagogical approaches and the research to be performed,” said Rob Griffin, Interim Dean of George R. Brown School of Engineering and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“The D2K Capstone project has been an amazing culmination of my studies over the past four years,” said Pham form Team Cardiac Signals. “We were able to use an interesting blend of both electrical engineering and computer science to work on real-world challenges.”


All of the student teams collaborated remotely this semester. “This was a really challenging year at Rice, as you can imagine; we had to run the entire class online,” said Genevera Allen, Associate Professor at Rice University and Founder of the D2K Lab. “I was very impressed with the projects this semester and congratulations to all the teams for their fantastic job!”


External judges for the D2K Showcase competition include Natalie Berestovsky, Director of Data Science at Bill.com; Max Grossman, Data Scientist at BP; Steve Metz, Vice President for Analytics at eBay. The judges from the Rice faculty were Chris Jermaine, Professor of Computer Science; Andrew Schaefer, Noah Harding Chair and Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics; Santiago Segarra, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Anshumali Shrivastava, Assistant Professor of Computer Science.

The Rice D2k Lab extends special thanks to the D2K Showcase presenting sponsor, Bill.com, and the kind support of all D2K Affiliate members: AWS, bp, Chevron, CSI Compressco, Energy Transfer, ExxonMobil, Intterra, Medical Informatics Corp., National Oilwell Varco, and Shell.

Watch all the student teams’ presentations

Watch the full recording of the D2K Virtual Showcase

- Shanna Jin, Communications and Marketing Specialist, D2K Lab