Nguyen hopes to become Sherlock Holmes of data analysis

Naomi (Ngoc) Nguyen ’17 chose her major in mathematics to put herself on the path for her dream field—analyzing data.

Naomi Nguyen '17
Naomi Nguyen ’17

“I want to be Sherlock Holmes, unlocking the secrets from reading the subtleties behind the data,” Nguyen said. She’s hoping to work in the field for a year or two before going on to graduate school.

Hailing from a coastal city in the south of Vietnam, Nguyen said the Block Plan and her job as a Quantitative Reasoning Peer Consultant helped boost her confidence and communication skills at Cornell College.

“I used to be the girl who was always in the top of the class but never raised my hand because I thought it was uncool and I didn’t want to be teacher’s pet,” Nguyen said, “However, the passion of the professors here, the open discussion, the encouragement of questions, and the topics I’ve learned here just grew my curiosity so quickly that the habit had no room to stay.”

One of the things that surprised Nguyen was how much support she received from faculty and staff.

“I met people who have helped me tremendously and unselfishly. I’d like to shout out to my friends, my professors, and the Berry Career Institute, and lastly, the chubby squirrels.”   

Q: What activities, clubs, organizations, or work study positions were you involved in at Cornell and how did they add to your education and enjoyment of Cornell?
A: I am a Quantitative Reasoning Peer Consultant. On a daily basis, I get to work with students on a variety of problems in a variety of topics: math, psychology, statistics, history, etc. It constantly reminded me how useful math and statistics can be to help understand the world around us and helped me learn more just by helping the students. Working with students from different backgrounds has also boosted my communication skills, particularly in explaining technical terms, and therefore helped me a lot in group work.

Q: What is your biggest academic accomplishment?
A: I don’t rank accomplishments, so I’ll talk about one of my favorite projects. In my Business Analytics Seminar, we worked on predicting short-term Emergency Room (ER) revisits. Short-term ER revisits is a metric for diagnostic error, the most costly and common error in healthcare, not only to hospitals but also to patients and insurers. The predictive model can be used to warn doctors to pay more attention to certain cases and thus increase healthcare quality.

I really enjoyed this project because we got to work on a real problem from A-Z: from cleaning the data, researching the topics, feature creation, and building the model. We worked with big data and try to make sense of it to produce a useful tool for hospitals, especially with their growing base of customers.

Q: What are your post-Cornell plans?
A: I’m still looking for the job of my dreams, analyzing data. I want to be Sherlock Holmes, unlocking the secrets from reading the subtleties behind the data. I want to use my statistical knowledge and data analysis to help identify the most potential places to find Voldemort’s seven Horcruxes. Actually, I’m not sure; I like the plot as is.

I also plan to go to graduate school after one or two years working.

Q: What Cornell experiences prepared you for this?
A: The 18-day schedule trained me to be a believer in getting things done with a “YES” attitude, even with occasions of stress. I think my classmates and I achieve pretty cool things within 18 days. For example, in my last block, Intro to Digital Humanities by Michelle Mouton, we created a database for Cornell’s old magazine, “The Husk,” an individual storytelling product (music videos, virtual reality), and a group project on text mining. My project is on investigating the sentiment of New York Times headlines over six months and finds some pretty cool stories.

All Cornell classes I have had, from mathematics to theatre, were a mixture of lectures and discussions. Questions were highly encouraged. This made me an effective team player. I used to be too shy to speak in class but now I’m eager to contribute to class discussion.

Q: Did you participate in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) or other meaningful service?
A: Yes, I had a great time with ASB in my sophomore year. We went to work with an after-school program, Create Your Dreams, in Atlanta, Georgia. They provide resources and most importantly, a community, for students in a disadvantaged area.

Q: What was your favorite activity on campus?
A: Going to concerts. Cornell’s music department has always done a wonderful job.