UBC Engineering Physics students beat out Ivy League competitors for Citadel West Coast Data Open win

Engineering Physics team
Clockwise from top left: Peter Ye (University of Southern California MSBA), Jason Zhou (UBC EngPhys), Ben Huckell (UBC EngPhys), Mark Wang (UBC MSc)

The following article originally appeared on the UBC Engineering Physics website.

The Citadel West Coast Regional Data Open is one of western North America’s most renowned data science-focused competitions. Hosted by one of the world’s largest hedge funds, the weeklong competition challenges participating teams to find hidden trends and present insights when given large and complex datasets.

Last week, our team of four was fortunate enough to compete among the 100 people selected for this event out of the 1000-plus who applied. Against a field filled, to a large degree, with graduate-level students from top universities such as Stanford, Caltech and Ivy League schools, we were happy and humbled to win the entire event!

For this datathon, we were given the intriguing challenge of finding trends in the transmission of COVID-19. Inspired by the ongoing events and emerging trends over the past year, our team decided to tackle the complex topic of quantifying pandemic-related misinformation and misconceptions in the United States, and the effects of such phenomena. 

Mindful that “correlation is not causation”, our team focused on finding causal links in our diverse data on COVID statistics, mobility, misinformation and socioeconomic/material conditions. We wanted not only to prove that these points were related, but also to describe the causal relationships that are at play in complex social systems and can be accurately portrayed and predicted using mathematical models.

In the end, our exploration identified groups that were particularly susceptible to misinformation and quantified the vulnerabilities of different demographics to different types of misinformation. Based on this, we were able to give insights and recommendations on the state level on how misinformation is driving COVID transmission, as well as how and what authorities can focus resources on to combat this. 

During this week of strenuous data analysis, visualization and presentation, we found that both the mathematical foundation and the presentation/documentation skills we’ve built up in the Engineering Physics program gave us a noticeable edge. We’re incredibly proud of how our team performed, and thankful for the time, commitment and effort that each of us put into this competition. Achieving this result amongst all the talented teams truly took a dedicated team effort and the best out of all of us.

The best thing is, the journey for our team is not done! Winning the event meant an invite to the global data open finals later this year, where we cannot wait to compete against the top teams from around the world who won their respective regions. 

Let's Work Together

Join us. Bring research and innovation insight to your biggest challenges. We work with industry, non-profit and government partners to accelerate solutions for the future.

Partner with Us
UBC Crest The official logo of the University of British Columbia. Arrow An arrow indicating direction. Arrow in Circle An arrow indicating direction. Caret An arrowhead indicating direction. E-commerce Cart A shopping cart. Time A clock. Chats Two speech clouds. Facebook The logo for the Facebook social media service. Social Media The globe is the default icon for a social media platform. TikTok The logo for the TikTok social media platform. Calendar Location Home A house in silhouette. Information The letter 'i' in a circle. Instagram The logo for the Instagram social media service. Linkedin The logo for the LinkedIn social media service. Location Pin A map location pin. Mail An envelope. Telephone An antique telephone. Play A media play button. Search A magnifying glass. Arrow indicating share action A directional arrow. Speech Bubble A speech bubble. Star An outline of a star. Twitter The logo for the Twitter social media service. Urgent Message An exclamation mark in a speech bubble. User A silhouette of a person. Vimeo The logo for the Vimeo video sharing service. Youtube The logo for the YouTube video sharing service. Future of work A logo for the Future of Work category. Inclusive leadership A logo for the Inclusive leadership category. Planetary health A logo for the Planetary health category. Solutions for people A logo for the Solutions for people category. Thriving cities A logo for the Thriving cities category. University for future A logo for the University for future category.