National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jake Porway has a love of all things related to pattern recognition, data visualization, and that happy union when a huge amount of information slams into something smart enough to do something with it. He revels in the divide between academic expertise and industrial know-how, just as excited to pioneer the next machine learning algorithm as he is to optimize the code for it. Jake is also an abiding fan of art and socially responsible living, loves learning new languages and musical instruments, and learned a lot about life from living with a very fat cat.
Jake is currently the Executive Director at DataKind in Brooklyn New York, since June of 2012. He joined the New York Times Research & Development group in December 2010, where he is currently exploring the relationships between social media and the process of creating and sharing news, developing interfaces for interaction with new devices, and otherwise redefining media as we know it in his role as Data Scientist. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science and a Ph.D. in Statistics from UCLA, where his research focused on learning hierarchical and contextual grammar models for patterns in images, including recognizing object categories as well as modelling aerial images. Jake was previously a Research Scientist at UtopiaCompression, where he lead and worked on a load of fun and exciting machine learning and computer vision projects, including active and incremental learning, anomaly detection, high-dimensional data visualization and abstraction, and image to- text conversion. Through internships and collaborations, Jake has also had the privilege of working at Google and Bell Laboratories, as well as contracting projects with the Office of Naval Research, DARPA, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Jake is a man obsessed. With numbers. With data. With information. With making the world better by looking at numbers. An unapologetic nerd, Porway lights up when he sees raw data, because he knows how to transform it, make the information matter and effect change. His infectious enthusiasm about science in its purest form is down right contagious. Honored by National Geographic, TED, PopTech and more, Porway has changed the way we think about data. When his first all-night hackathon resulted middling consumer apps, he couldn't help but be disappointed. And, he started a community of programmers, who wanted to use their skillsets for good. After a few years at the New York Times, contextualizing data, he branched out on his own, forming DataKind, which matches programmers with government agencies and NGOs to shape raw data into usable information. His work has been featured (and heralded) at the White House and the UN.