Tomsk State University: First international student graduated the program on Big Data

Zhang Yuanyuan, a master’s student from China, became the first international student to defend a master’s thesis in Big Data and Data Science. Her thesis was dedicated to algorithms used to assess the psychological profile of social network users. Such studies help identify groups at risk, for example, people with depression in need of help, which is incredibly relevant during the pandemic.

After Zhang Yuanyuan graduated from Hainan Normal University in China, she enrolled in the TSU master’s degree program Big Data and Data Science. She was the only student from China there. Professors and the program manager helped Yuanyuan to adapt to life in new conditions. The topic of her work was decided with the help of her scientific adviser, Aleksander Zamyatin, director of the Institute of Applied Mathematics and Cybernetics, and Vyacheslav Goiko, director of the Center for Applied Big Data Analysis.

Zhang Yuanyuan developed a method of selecting the digital footprint features of social network users. It teaches algorithms to forecast psychological characteristics in a shorter time.

“The most popular instruments to evaluate the user’s psychological characteristics and current state are various quizzes, but they limit the number of participants. However, we need to prevent deviant behavior, especially in youth, and technologies can help us find the solution,” explains Zhang Yuanyuan.

In her thesis, she demonstrated how we can increase the effectiveness of the algorithms by decreasing their learning time.

It was Zhang Yuanyuan’s first encounter with this area of studies, which is considered difficult due to its crossdisciplinary nature. Nevertheless, she was able to master it from the beginning and graduated in December 2021.

“The intersection between social and computer sciences is very little studied in China. Our master’s degree program is unique in that regard – it is not just AI and Big Data that are in demand right now, but the junction between social studies and numerical methods. For example, during the pandemic it is important to identify groups at risk – people prone to depression and other difficult emotional states,” Vyacheslav Goiko said to highlight the relevance of this topic.
In the future, Zhang Yuanyaun plans to enter a PhD program at Tomsk State University. Her research work will be on digital footprint analysis and behavioral economics, which studies which social, emotional, and cognitive factors influence decision making in the economy.

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