MDS Vancouver Student Gets First Place Hackathon Finish

MDS Program Plays Pivotal Role in Win

When Mark Wang, MDS Vancouver student, Class of 2021, heard about the Data Open West Coast Regional Datathon from MDS Career Advisor, Angela Pau, he knew that it would provide him with valuable experience and he credits the MDS program in playing a role in his success in the Datathon.

The Data Open challenges students from the world's best universities to tackle real-world social challenges in topics such as urban traffic, renewable energy, and education.  

The competition, held virtually, ran from February 16 to 22 with teams of four, given a week to work on their submissions.

"A virtual datathon experience was valuable to me because we are entering a new normal where people in data science and many other technical fields work remotely," said Wang. "The MDS program has played a pivotal role in helping students build remote working skills."

Mark Wang

The West Coast Regional Datathon is part of The Data Open, a competition hosted by Citadel LLC and Citadel Securities in partnership with Correlation One.

Around 30 teams entered the West Coast Regional Datathon. Undergraduates, master's, PhD and postdoctoral researchers from many U.S. and Canadian universities from the West Coast participated.

Aside from Wang, other members of his team included two UBC undergraduates majoring in engineering physics and one masters of business analytics student from the University of Southern California.

The team ended up placing first and along with it $25,000, exclusive recruiting opportunities with Citadel, and global recognition. The win means that Wang and his team move on to the Data Open Championship competing against the top teams from the other regional datathons (e.g., East Coast, APAC, and Boston Regional). 

One of the reasons why Wang wanted to participate in the West Coast Regional Datathon was because he saw the Datathon as “a great opportunity for me to demonstrate the skills that I learned at MDS in a competitive and professional setting, and at the same time learn from students from across the world.”

kangyu mark wang datathon
Mark Wang with his team celebrating their win

According to Wang, what made the West Coast Regional Datathon unique was that it only provides participants with a main topic allowing teams to produce their own questions to be answered from the data provided. 

“Although Citadel LLC and Citadel Securities are leading financial companies, we were asked to use data to explore policy and economic issues that have implications for everyone in the society,” he added. 

During the Datathon, Wang and his team mostly communicated through Slack as he was based in China, his teammates from UBC were in Vancouver and the other in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to Slack, the team members were able to collaborate through GitHub. Citadel LLC and Citadel Securities and Correlation One also provided seamless support to all participants so that teams can communicate and work efficiently.

“We communicated with each other clearly about our available time slots during the day and were all understanding of potential conflict. We are all devoted to the datathon and everyone prioritized it, despite many other commitments,” said Wang about navigating multiple time zones,  Wang also credits the whole MDS program as being immensely helpful during the datathon.  

“On the technical side, at MDS, we received rigorous training in building and interpreting regression models, which our team used a lot in our analyses. We also developed strong data wrangling and exploratory analytical skills, often with a wide range of visualizations. In addition, I am not from a computer science background, so I found using GitHub efficiently also quite helpful.” 

In addition, Wang said what really helped him and his team achieve a first-place finish was the MDS faculty strongly encouraging students to strengthen their teamwork skills in lab assignments and course projects.  

“I learned to clearly communicate with team members both through code and plain English. In particular. at the beginning of the datathon, we talked about our expectations regarding each other's contribution, and agreed on communication channels, meeting rules and workflow – another piece of teamwork best practice learned from MDS,” he added.

Vanessa Ho is the Marketing Coordinator for the MDS program. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Regina.

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