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Business Professor Delves Into High-Dimensional Statistics

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When Yingfei Kong talks about his doctorate, he laughs. The Cal State Fullerton assistant professor of information systems and decision sciences earned his doctorate from USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

And while it is a bit unusual that a business professor has a doctorate from a school of medicine, his research focus is on a subject rapidly growing in importance in business, as well as medicine: big data, a term used for large data sets that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends and associations.

Kong has co-authored a number of articles related to high-dimensional statistics, healthcare and substance abuse issues, including the book chapter “Achieving Sobriety Among Latino Older Adults” in “Challenges of Latino Aging in the Americas.”

What inspired you to go into teaching? What was the defining moment?

I like the feeling of helping others, and I believe that I benefit from working with students, the ability to share ideas. But the idea of teaching didn’t come to me right away. I was in my second or third year at USC and had decided that I would be working either in banking or pharmaceuticals.

But I found that I was happy teaching, and it was more rewarding to be a faculty member who helps students grow and succeed.

Why statistics? Why is it so important?

All companies use statistics because it drives market decisions — from how well a company is performing and where its strengths and weaknesses are, to what the next step is in order to grow and thrive.

How do you engage students in your classes?

I enjoy the interaction with students, letting them come up with their own problems or issues, then I work with them to create and share their research and solutions. Each student comes into the classroom with a different background, with their own questions; from that beginning we can work together and each of us learn in this way.

What are your research interests?

I am currently working in two directions. One is with high-dimensional data, which have a lot of variables — too many, so you are forced to develop a variable selection and look for interactions.

My other research is with Los Angeles County, where we are looking at substance abuse treatment programs and trying to determine if and how Obamacare may be affecting the completion outcomes.

What changes do you envision in your field five years from now?

Big data is becoming a bigger field with increasing applications throughout all areas. I believe that more and more schools, like Mihaylo, will be developing programs in this growing field.

See the complete list of new tenure-track faculty members joining CSUF this fall.