Dr Kirell Benzi

Data Science
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, 2016
Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?

I did my Ph.D. in Data Science from the LTS2 at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Lausanne, Switzerland. I focused my research on networks and developed new large-scale graph algorithms to study big datasets.

For instance, we studied how people browse Wikipedia by collecting anonymous user activity over 6 million articles. We discovered that it was mainly visited for entertainment (series, Hollywood, gossip, politics) contrary to what one may think!

At the end of my Ph.D, I realized that it was easier to tell stories with beautiful visuals and slowly shifted towards data visualization and data art.

What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?

I’m a professional data artist and head of research at a tech company in Paris. In a nutshell, I use the latest techniques in data mining and machine learning to reveal insights in the form of visually stunning and engaging experiences. I’m also a trained public speaker with more than 50 global conferences on the topic.

Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?

Having a Ph.D. was a tremendous boost to my career! When feeling down, it reminds me that I can accomplish hard tasks if I set my mind to it. The self-confidence, experience, and abilities that I gained after more than four years of work is now invaluable in my day-to-day job.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?

Find mentors and emotional support in more experienced researchers like post-docs or former Ph.D. students. A Ph.D. is a long ride with joys and tears..! Having a co-worker who lifts your spirits in difficult times can change your whole experience.

Don’t stress too much about your publication numbers. A good paper is worth more than four mediocre contributions!

And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?
Just a few tips that worked for me:
Develop your professional network, especially outside academia.
Do a ton of outreach: blog articles, science communication, conferences, and social media to get your name out there.
Learn about business, marketing, and clients, especially if you come like me from a STEM field. Reading just a few books will change how to market yourself and will help you in the long run.

Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?

I had a great time in Shanghai with two other Ph.D. students. We went there to present our work and had time to visit the city, try the local cuisine, and dance salsa with people from across the world :).

Want to know more about Kirell?

Check out his website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn using the links below:

Website | Twitter | LinkedIn

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