Big data can reveal clues to solving big problems. Patrick (Phuong) Pho ’18MS has used big data to develop models to prevent electricity theft and tampering. He also used it to predict major depressive disorder using genotyping data and he’s used it to develop models that forecast wait times at Walt Disney World attractions.

He’s been recognized for prizes for all three of these works and this week, he’ll be adding one more feather in his cap — he becomes the first student to earn a Ph.D. in big data analytics from UCF’s doctoral program.

“I enjoyed my studies here as I learned a lot from the experienced faculty and had many opportunities to collaborate with them on interesting projects and research,” says Pho who is a native of Vietnam. “I also gained valuable technical skill set by participating in many data analytics competitions hosted by the department and industrial partners.”

Pho and his team won first place in the OUC Meter Data Science Competition for his anti-theft model in 2020. In 2019 he landed a Microsoft scholarship to complete his genotyping research and in 2017 he took the top award in the Touring Plan Big Data Competition.

His doctorate is Pho’s second UCF degree. In 2018, he earned a master’s degree in statistical computing with a track in data mining. It’s this program that first drew him to UCF.

“I chose UCF as it was one of a few institutes offering a Ph.D. program in big data analytics,” he says. “The Department of Statistics and Data Science has been known for their established data mining program. Hence, I believed a Ph.D. program offered by the department would provide the quality education and equip me with in-demand skill set to become a critical thinker and a leading professional in data science field.”

There are currently more than 20 students in UCF’s big data analytics Ph.D. program.

Since arriving at UCF Pho has authored or co-authored four peer-reviewed journal articles about big data analytics and he presented at conferences.

“Big data has been a rising field in recent years,” he says. “With the advent of technology, many big data-driven applications have made significant impact on human life. Examples include artificial intelligent systems capable of detecting credit card fraud, recommending entertaining contents and planning commuting route. A Ph.D. degree in big data analytics prepares me for many rewarding opportunities in various domains.”

After several years of schooling, often requiring hundreds of hours of work in the lab and teaching introduction and advanced statistics classes as a teaching assistant, Pho is taking a short break after commencement to spend some time with his family. Then, he’ll be hitting the job market.