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UIC Names Rising Data Scientist to TransUnion Endowed Professorship

“Big data” is getting a big boost in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Liberal Arts and Sciences through a new professorship endowed by TransUnion, a leading global information and insights company.

The partnership between UIC’s largest college and the Chicago-based company will address the overwhelming demand for data science research, education, careers, talent, and information in a world that is becoming increasingly data-driven.

Yichao Wu, an expert in functional data analysis and machine learning, has been appointed the inaugural TransUnion Professor at UIC.

As the TransUnion Professor based in the department of mathematics, statistics, and computer science, Wu will develop and nurture research in data science, engage with businesses, and train graduate and undergraduate students for careers in a wide variety of professions.

He also will play a pivotal role in the new multi-college bachelor’s degree program that is being launched at UIC and will assume the position of director of multidisciplinary research in data science, a new administrative post in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that will focus on the development of research initiatives for faculty and students in the college and across UIC.

Wu, who has been professor of mathematics, statistics, and computer science at UIC since 2017, is part of a broad group of researchers from the university who are engaged in data science research and applications.

“The TransUnion endowed professorship advances our strong position as an emerging data science nexus for innovative research both within academia and across domains of application,” said Astrida Orle Tantillo, dean of the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “With the selection of Professor Wu, we have already seen increased momentum in our data science research efforts, and we are deeply grateful to TransUnion for this innovative partnership.”

From finance to health care and transportation to sports, companies from almost every industry are investing more resources to support the collection, analysis and interpretation of data.

TransUnion’s partnership with UIC aims to advance innovative research and develop a diverse pool of talent in the burgeoning area of data science. As a company that has long been at the forefront of the data science field, TransUnion has developed numerous innovative solutions to help millions of consumers achieve greater access to services and shape their financial future.

“Partnering with UIC is a great opportunity to advance the study of data science and develop the industry’s future leaders in the same community as our global headquarters,” said Steve Chaouki, president of U.S. Markets for TransUnion. “UIC is home to an incredibly diverse student population and groundbreaking research capabilities. Together, we plan to expand UIC’s innovative curriculum, build professional education opportunities and create interdisciplinary research groups. TransUnion is proud to have Professor Wu carry forward our joint commitment to advancing data science.”

Wu said the appointment marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter of his professional career. As his research profile has grown, it also has become increasingly interdisciplinary, which has resulted in his current leadership role in a major collaborative project with the College of Medicine on brain research.

“The considerable financial support that comes with the professorship will help me to try out cutting-edge research ideas, such as how to identify important clinical and genetic predictors to explain brain connectivity,” Wu said. “I am very much grateful to TransUnion and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for this opportunity.”

Over his career, Wu has been the principal investigator on multiple projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

He is a widely published scholar with more than 60 papers featured in top-rated journals, and a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. Wu currently serves as an associate editor of four journals and is a former associate editor for the Journal of the American Statistical Association, one of the top journals in the statistics field.

In 2017, Wu received the Leo Breiman Junior Award from the American Statistical Association’s Section on Statistical Learning and Data Science and, in 2018, was named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. Wu also was selected in 2011 for the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Award, commonly known as the NSF CAREER Award, which supports up-and-coming researchers in science and engineering.

Wu earned a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006. After two years in a postdoctoral position at Princeton University, he joined North Carolina State University before being recruited to UIC in 2017. At UIC, his teaching includes advanced courses in statistical theory and data science and he supervises doctorate students in mathematics, statistics, and computer science.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and TransUnion will hold a public presentation and reception April 27 at 4 p.m. in Student Center East, Illinois Room, 750 S. Halsted St., to celebrate the investiture of Wu as the inaugural TransUnion Professor at UIC.

TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.®

A leading presence in more than 30 countries across five continents, TransUnion provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people.