Student Profiles

Swami Venkat

Swami is in his final year of the program after completing a Senior Product Management Internship with IBM Cloud over the summer of 2022.

As a Student Mentor for the DSAN program, Co-Director of Events for GradGov, and a writer/artist focused on community and connection, Swami personifies his commitment to giving back.

Journey to DSAN

The spark that would guide Swami on his journey was ignited in an undergraduate interdisciplinary class in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu, India. It was fanned into flame in further classes: An AI class on how code became smart, Machine Learning, and Soft Computing. The latter was one of the most interesting courses he took, teaching how discrete math and computer science can combine to quantify approximate values, providing imprecise but usable solutions to complex computational problems. For example, you can describe red or blue…but how do you describe something that is “kind of ” blue? 

As he began to look forward in his journey, Swami wanted to find a career and learning path that was future-focused and could expand upon the classes he was passionate about as an undergraduate. This search led him to data science and analytics!

The DSAN program was an ideal fit for him in several ways. Swami appreciated the balance between applied data science and math, and was familiar with Georgetown’s excellent reputation and its campus with so much to offer. The school’s location in the vibrant and diverse city of DC was the “cherry on top!”

Finding A Community

Swami found himself feeling incredibly lucky in the experiences he had during his first year in the program. He met phenomenal people and made such wonderful connections that he wanted to give back to a community that had given him so much. He looked at his first-year experience as a student and as an individual and felt that it’s important to grow as both. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect by looking back.”  

This realization, along with his excellent academic record and social experience here in the program, led him to GradGov, Georgetown’s Graduate Student Government that focuses on promoting academic, professional, and social growth. After looking at the available opportunities, he applied to be the co-director of events. Georgetown has a huge graduate student population and he was keen to meet people outside the program. Ideally he wanted to give back without expectation, work with like-minded people and a diverse leadership team, and have the space to execute his vision! His event motto is to “create experiences not just events.” This was borne out in the response to his first big event of the 22/23 academic year, GradGov’s Halloween Party. International students from our program, and others, were especially excited to be there as many were celebrating the spookiest of holidays for the first time!

” I remember the first time that Swami presented his Final Project in my class. I was in awe because he started the presentation with an utmost interesting twist in it. He and his team took a pretty boring topic and made it into something very interesting.  I was deeply impressed by his data storytelling skills. He is a great, kind and a very polite student who is actively participating in the program and always willing to provide his support. “

Dr. Purna Gamage- DSAN Program Director

Art, Storytelling, and Data

During the Covid crisis, Swami sought to understand himself better and how he could use his passion and experience for the service and benefit of others. Coming from a very musically inclined family, he had always been interested in the arts. As he explored different forms of expression, a friend suggested he begin by blogging. Thus @theartloupe was born, an Instagram account highlighting his thoughts and experiences during his final year of undergrad. It kicked off with movie reviews but has since evolved to focus on working through different perspectives and ideas through an artistic lens. His overarching goal is to uncover the essence of the everyday and why it’s beautiful, allowing the reader to join him in looking at the world in a new light.

Swami’s penchant for approaching things from a new angle has become an asset in his work and his studies. When he began his internship at IBM last summer, he found himself in a position to effect real change within the company. During his work as a Product Management Intern, he found malicious accounts that were going against cloud policies. By effectively visuzalizing the problem to his superiors, he was able to demonstrate the need to focus on banning malicious accounts. Making an impact as an intern, opening others’ eyes to a previously unseen issue, was incredibly gratifying.

As a student, his artistic background and internship experience have given him new certainty about the importance of storytelling in data science and analytics. Going forward he will seek to use his art and tech background to create compelling visuals that foster understanding and change.  “If stakeholders can understand the data and visualizations, your job as a data analyst is fulfilled.” 

Zev Burton

Zev is one of our first BS-MS Accelerated Degree students and entered the program from the School of Foreign Service (SFS) in 2021 during his last year of earning his BSFS in International Politics.

As a published author with a background in international politics and security and 250,000 Tik-Tok followers, this 22-year-old might just be on his way to being a renaissance man.

Journey to DSAN

Zev knew in his first semester in the SFS that he wanted to take the political history and theory he was learning and focus on making a difference in the world by solving current-day problems. The question was how.

Not long after joining Georgetown for his Bachelor’s in the SFS, Zev met Dr. Kimberly Sellers, a professor and statistician in the Math and Statistics department, at a research fair. In the two years he worked with her, they often talked about Zev’s desire to interact more with actual, current data instead of historical data. Dr. Sellers wisely coaxed him into taking more math and stats classes. He found he enjoyed getting hands-on with code and, with Dr. Sellers’ encouragement and assistance, applied for the BS-MS with DSAN.

The breadth of knowledge afforded by Zev’s combined education in the SFS and now data science and analytics has given him a path forward that he is truly passionate about: Helping to build a bridge between international policy and data, especially using data to ensure that diplomatic policy is working.

An Unexpected Turn

One aspect of Zev’s journey was wholly unexpected: TikTok activist and creator. 

Zev had written a book called Two Fish in a Tank: How Jokes Can Give Hope in a Fractured World. He was inspired by the writings of holocaust survivors, many of whom talked about how they made jokes in the camps to deal with the day-to-day horrors, and how humor is often present in even the most brutal situations as a means to cope and process. After writing his book and publishing it during the pandemic, his sister suggested that he go on TikTok to promote it. As Zev knew nothing about TikTok, it wasn’t the most successful of marketing plans. It wasn’t until he posted a short video about an obscure math summation before heading into his Russian class that he had his first brush with being a bit of a viral sensation.

He broke 5,000 followers pretty quickly but truly saw his TikTok profile blow up when he began posting on January 6, 2020. He was in DC at the time and used his platform and his SFS studies in domestic terrorism to give context and background to what was happening. As often happens, the internet was not always kind. Antisemitic vitriol rolled in. When he spoke about antisemitism, it blew up even more. He had his first million-view video. Putting it in context, Zev says, “Imagine that many people watching you speak in an auditorium.” As he progressed in the DSAN program he began to speak out about data misinformation, and his dedicated following has now tripled to 250,000. 

Zev is an excellent student who is full of energy, enthusiasm and has great communication skills. He is always very engaging and humorous in class as well as while presenting his research findings, which I think is a great quality as I’m always keen to hear Zev presenting. He is a very talented student and I can’t wait to see his next great adventure”

Dr. Purna Gamage- DSAN Program Director

Focusing on the Future

Zev’s ability and passion for communicating complex ideas and topics have become integral to his success in the DSAN program. He loves how the program emphasizes the importance of data communication, believing that anyone from any school can run the models, but DSAN emphasizes the importance of being able to tell the story. “A good data scientist can connect with the general public,” he says. “Data means nothing if you can’t explain why it matters”. 

His training at DSAN has given him a breadth of knowledge and a deeper way to look at the world. He believes that the best way to learn about the world is to know the “why” behind what you are learning.

Georgetown’s Data Science Program helped me leverage technical tools when applying my background in Statistics. In addition to learning from Computer Science and Statistics Graduate Courses, collaborating with professional students helped prepare me for interviews and refine my communication skills, especially when writing technical papers

Arif Ali, MS Analytics 2016, Business Intelligence Engineer, Amazon