Women in Data Science @ Penn Conference Speakers

Conference Co-Chairs

Susan Davidson

Co-Director, Data Science Program, Penn Engineering

Susan B. Davidson is an American computer scientist known for work in databases and bioinformatics. She is Weiss Professor of Computer and Information Science at University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation work on distributed databases included results on statistical and mathematical techniques for data resolution as well as mechanisms to avoid database conflicts.

Susan has also done research in bioinformatics, where her work (with collaborators) on data integration was commercialized by GeneticXChange. She also serves on the board of the Computing Research Association.

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Mary Purk

Executive Director, Wharton Customer Analytics and Wharton AI for Business

As the Executive Director of Wharton Customer Analytics, Mary Purk leads the academic research center that focuses on the development and application of cutting-edge analytics methods. Through WCA’s experiential programs, She connects students, academics, and professionals across multiple industries to solve complex, real-world business challenges using machine learning, AI, and big data.

Mary has held other principal roles at Nielsen and IRI developing and implementing enterprise-wide analytic platforms focused on customers and brand equity. Her expertise includes forecast models, consumer segmentations, marketing mix models, product assortments, pricing, and digital strategies.

Other work experience includes leading the Retail Research Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and consulting roles with Accenture and AT Kearney.

Mary is a proud MBA alumnus of the University of Chicago Booth and the University of Illinois. She has designed and instructed executive education courses, presented at numerous conferences, and published papers in the Journal of Marketing and Journal of Retailing.

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Linda Zhao

Professor of Statistics and Data Science

Linda Zhao is a Professor of Statistics and at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. Linda specializes in modern machine learning methods.

After getting her PhD in Mathematics/Statistics from Cornell University, Linda taught in UCLA, Los Angeles for one year. She joined the Wharton School in 1994. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the Mathematics department of Nankai University, China.

Linda’s research area covers from Bayesian analysis, nonparametric analysis and numerical computation. She mainly publishes in international leading journals. Current on going projects include forecasting house prices, inference for high dimensional data, data with measurement errors and post model selection inferences. Linda also enjoys teaching very much.

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SEI Keynote Speaker

Michelle Peluso, W’93

EVP & CCO, CVS Health, and Co-President of Retail

Michelle Peluso is Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at CVS Health, responsible for transforming CVS Health’s consumer experience, accelerating the company’s digital transformation, and leading the company’s marketing and brand teams.

Michelle has an extensive 25-year career building world-class consumer experiences. She most recently served as Senior Vice President, Digital Sales and Chief Marketing Officer for IBM, where she oversaw all global marketing and brand experiences, digital sales and the commercial business. Prior to joining IBM, Michelle served as CEO of Gilt from 2013 to 2016, Chief Consumer Marketing and Internet Officer for Citigroup from 2009 to 2013, and CEO of Travelocity from 2002 to 2009.

In addition to her duties at CVS Health, Michelle serves on the Board of Directors for NIKE, Inc.,nonprofit TechnoServe, and Association of National Advisors (ANA).Michelle holds a graduate degree from Pembroke College at Oxford University, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

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Conference Speakers

Hamsa Bastani

Assistant Professor, Operations, Information, and Decisions

Hamsa Bastani is an assistant professor in Operations Information and Decisions at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on developing novel machine learning algorithms for data-driven decision-making, with applications to healthcare operations, pricing, recommendation systems, and social good.

Her work has been recognized by the George Nicholson, MSOM, Service Science, and Health Applications Society best student paper awards, the Pierskalla best paper award in healthcare operations, and the early-career People’s Choice award in sustainable operations. She previously completed her PhD at Stanford University, and was a Herman Goldstine postdoctoral fellow at IBM Research.

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Blanca Himes

Associate Professor, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School

Blanca Himes is the Associate Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Perelman School. Her research focuses on gaining insights into asthma pathogenesis and treatment using biomedical informatics approaches. She has performed genome-wide association studies of asthma and related traits as a lead investigator and as part of large collaborations. She has used probabilistic graphical models to find genetic association networks and designed a computational algorithm to search through large datasets for optimal predictors of a phenotype. Blanca has identified and characterized subjects for asthma genomics studies using patient-derived data from electronic medical records. Most recently, she has used RNA-Seq to study human airway smooth muscle cell response to asthma medications, vitamin D, and to identify differences in response between fatal asthma patients vs. individuals without asthma.

Blanca earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of California, San Diego, and a PhD in medical physics and bioinformatics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Erika James

Dean, The Wharton School


Erika H. James became the dean of the Wharton School on July 1, 2020. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity and management strategy.

Prior to her appointment at Wharton, Dean James was the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School from 2014 to 2020. An award-winning educator, accomplished consultant and researcher, she is the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean in Wharton’s 139-year history. As such she has paved the way for women in leadership both in education and corporate America. Dean James has been instrumental in developing groundbreaking executive education programs, including the Women’s Leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School.

Known internationally, Dean James was named as one of the “Top 10 Women of Power in Education” by Black Enterprise and as one of the “Power 100” by Ebony. She has been quoted as an expert thought leader by the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN.com and numerous other media outlets.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Dean James is a board member of SurveyMonkey, a California-based market research and customer-experience company, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and several organizations that align with her passion for education and advancing women in business. She is also a board member of Save the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children through better education, health care and economic opportunities.

Dean James holds a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California.


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Vijay Kumar

Dean, Penn Engineering

Vijay Kumar is a roboticist and UPS foundation professor in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, with secondary appointments in computer and information science and electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He was appointed the Dean of Penn Engineering in 2015.

Kumar is known for his research in the control and coordination of multi-robot formations. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018.

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Victoria Lewis-Bogatyrenko, WG’94

SVP, UnitedHealthcare Networks

A 21-year veteran of UnitedHealthcare, Victoria Bogatyrenko, WG’94, serves as Senior Vice President within UnitedHealthcare Networks, steering national ancillary network development strategies and physician reimbursement operations. UnitedHealthcare Networks proudly manages relationships with 1.5 million physicians and health care professionals, with a commitment to ensuring high quality, affordable care. UnitedHealthcare is a division of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health and well-being company with a mission to help people live healthier lives and help make the health system work better for everyone.

Victoria has served in a number of UnitedHealthcare leadership positions, including Chief Operating Officer of UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy, Chief Consumer Officer of UnitedHealthcare Community and State, Vice President of Product, Innovation & Marketing, and Chief Operating Officer of UnitedHealthcare of New York and New Jersey.

Before joining UnitedHealthcare, Victoria served as Regional Director of Network Management for Oxford Health Plans, and as a Healthcare Consultant for Deloitte Consulting. Victoria received a BA in International Politics and Economics from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and an MBA in Healthcare and Operations Management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


Gayatri Narayan

SVP, Digital Products and Services - PepsiCo

Gayatri Narayan is the Senior Vice President of Digital Products and Solutions at PepsiCo, where she leads Global Digital Transformation across PepsiCo’s value chain, driving profitable growth and operational efficiencies through digitalization of PepsiCo’s supply chain, logistics, revenue, and sales strategy.

Gayatri’s professional experience covers Enterprise Software as a Service, eCommerce, Supply Chain Logistics, Media and Entertainment, Engineering, AI, Marketing, and Business Development. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Gayatri was a General Manager at Microsoft across Office and Business Application Groups. Gayatri has held General Manager positions at Amazon, Publicis Groupe, Sears Holdings, and Thomson Reuters.

Originally from India, Gayatri has a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, traveling, the outdoors, and supporting community efforts focused on education and sustainability.

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Tal Rabin

Professor, Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania

Tal Rabin is a computer scientist and Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She was previously the head of Research at the Algorand Foundation and the head of the cryptography research group at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

In 1986, she received her Bachelor of Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She continued her studies for her Masters of Science in 1988, and PhD in 1994. Between the years 1994–1996 she was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT. She later joined the cryptography group at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, and became head of the group in 1997. In 2020, she joined the University of Pennsylvania as a Professor of Computer and Information Science.

Rabin’s research focuses on cryptography and network security, specifically the design of efficient and secure encryption algorithms. In addition, she studies secure distributed protocols and the theoretical foundations of cryptography, as well as number theory and the theory of algorithms and distributed systems. She has co-authored over 100 papers. She has also registered five patents in the US. Her research focuses on making communications over the internet more secure. Her most cited works in this field focus on the design of digital signature schemes, which are widely used, among other applications, in protocols for secure web communication. Another focus is on a different scheme of encrypted communications called secret sharing.

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Jenny Wolski

VP, Retail Strategy and Experience - Petco

Jenny Wolski is the Senior Vice President of Omnichannel Experience at Petco.  Jenny is a transformational and innovative executive focused on deeply understanding and correlating employee and customer experience to drive business performance. In her role, she is responsible for delivering on the vision to become pet parents’ most trusted partner in caring for the overall health and wellness of their pets.  Relentlessly focused on turning insights into action, Jenny leads enterprise wide programs to evolve retail strategy and operations, strengthen omnichannel services, and enhance employee and customer experience and loyalty.   Jenny has served in several senior leadership roles at Petco, including those in operations, pet services, and marketing.

Jenny is passionate about creating a workplace that prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and belonging.  She is a key member of Petco’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and is also the founder and Executive Sponsor of the Petco PRIDE employee resource group.

Prior to joining Petco, Jenny oversaw corporate partnerships at the City of San Diego and held roles in special events and fundraising at Scripps Health. Jenny holds a B.S. in Business Administration from University of Florida.

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Ren Zhang

Director, Selling Partner Development Science, Amazon

More information coming soon.

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