Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good

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Jake O’Neill

Class Year


My Major/ Minor/ Campus Organizations

Mathematics / Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good / Math Tutor / Basketball


Northfield, NJ

What should matter to me?

 As I grow, I have realized that my relationships with others – family, friends, colleagues, and anyone that crosses paths with my life – matters the most to me. I hope to inspire others as many have inspired me. With this said, I am very interested in promoting science and the common good, particularly as it relates to statistics and machine learning endeavors. These fields are radically changing our lives for better and for worse. I hope to contribute to the growing STEM research community in finding new quantitative solutions to many of the world’s problems. I plan to continue my quantitative training beyond Ursinus so I am equipped with the skills to make a lasting impact. However, I am also cognizant that these changes are causing systemic issues in our democratic process. Data Analytics, in many ways, has begun to exploit people’s health, demographics, and finances in pursuit of profit. I am most driven to understand and communicate these dangers so that we can live in a better community.

How should we live together?

We should live together as a family. A family is inter-dependent and focuses on commonalities. Each of us has unique talents and skills to contribute to society. My time at Ursinus has shown me that the relationships I have are invaluable to my professional and personal growth. At the Parlee Center, I hope to instill this attitude into other Fellows, but also the greater Ursinus community. We all have a role promoting the common good.

I plan to do a Parlee Center Internship with the Data Science for Social Good initiatives at one of the universities where this is offered – U Chicago, UWashington, Georgia Tech. These programs offer analytically-minded students the opportunity to apply their skills to help a non-profit organization with their data challenges. As I seek a career at the intersection of analytics and public policy, this would be an excellent opportunity for my professional goals.

How can we understand the world?

We can understand the world from both a humanist and scientific perspective. The tradition of liberal education at Ursinus College celebrates the advancement of knowledge and I believe that using education as a means to understand the world is the best way to reflect on our lives and those around us. By immersing oneself in the cultures, philosophies, and histories of many people while also gaining the technical, scientific training required in our digital world, one can fully reflect on his or her being. Ursinus and the Parlee Center offer exceptional opportunities for one to grow in these respects.

My Independent Research: I am currently pursuing research in a growing field at the intersection of statistics and machine learning. My research focuses on Selective Inference Post Model Selection. In short, algorithms are increasingly playing a role in how we model scientific and social phenomenon. The classical scientific process is ordered from hypothesis to data collection and analysis and finally to conclusion. However, many researchers now do not have a hypothesis in mind and start with data analysis. This causes improper statistical analysis, which can cause many problems. This has led many research findings to not be replicable which can cause grave dangers for policy decision makers. With this in mind, my research attention is focused on simulating inference with proper statistical techniques when data snooping is at play.

What will I do?

After Ursinus, I plan to pursue a career in the field of data analytics. Though I am unclear if I would like to pursue grad school post-Ursinus, I would like to work on interesting, meaningful questions that come to surface with data. For a long-term perspective, I would like to help contribute to the growing problems that analytics is causing in our society.