A team of UNC Ph.D. candidates won $20,000 and job interviews after a day-long competition on Duke University’s campus on April 21. Yunxiao Liu, Iain Carmichael and John Palowitch — all UNC students — teamed up, along with Yiming Hu, a Ph.D. candidate from Yale University, to compete in a datathon sponsored by Citadel, Citadel Securities and Correlation One.
The datathon was part of a series of events held at 18 different universities where teams of three to four students were given a large set of publicly available data and asked to solve a problem, L.J. Brock, chief people officer at Citadel, said.
“You try and take the knowledge you can get from that data and try to think of innovative ways to solve challenges. You can think of it as akin to, but different from, a hackathon,” Brock said. “A hackathon’s outcome is based on trying to make an application work or something of that nature while this is much more about problem-solving.”
Palowitch, who is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the statistics and operation research department, said he learned about the competition from one of his friends in the department with whom he formed the team. During the competition, the team was given millions of U.S. job listings along with economic and demographic data sets from the past decade. Using all that information, they were charged with investigating both macro and micro factors that affect job growth.
“One thing that really helped us was the diversity of research backgrounds so that we were able to compile an analysis that followed a few different directions instead of just one,” Palowtich said. “I think that is what sets us apart from some of the other teams.”