Student Profile: Alex Gottlieb ’18 using data for a social purpose

Tuesday, Aug 7, 2018
by Sharon Adarlo

Alex Gottlieb, 22, Class of 2018:

Studies: Alex Gottlieb earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the Department of Politics with two certificates: the Centers’ Undergraduate Certificate in Statistics and Machine Learning and the Certificate Program in Applications of Computing from the Department of Computer Science.

Research: Gottlieb came to Princeton with an interest in humanities and social science. But after he “accidentally” took a statistics class, he was hooked, he said.

“It’s a different way of thinking and problem solving than what I did before, which was qualitative,” he said. “I didn’t know about quantitative social science. A data intensive approach was new and very fascinating to me.”

For his independent project for CSML, Gottlieb looked at whether people’s professed ideologies on social networks matched up with what they privately believe. Gottlieb specifically looked at Twitter, where he found that people tended towards centrism/moderation publicly, whatever their political beliefs. Gottlieb used machine learning techniques to arrive at his findings.

After graduating, Gottlieb now works as a data scientist at Kimetrica, a company based in Nairobi, Kenya whose goal is to increase the effectiveness of spending on humanitarian projects. Gottlieb said he has found that the information and skills he learned in his CSML classes have been extremely practical in his current position.

“The CSML program gave me a solid theoretical understanding and gave me a practical toolkit,” he said.

At Kimetrica, Gottlieb worked on two main projects: developing facial recognition algorithms to detect malnutrition in children and developing models to predict the market prices of staple crops in the developing world by utilizing remote sensing data from satellite imagery, which include vegetation cover, precipitation indices, and proximity to road networks.

Extracurricular activities: Gottlieb was a residential advisor at Forbes College, helped run the Real Food Co-op - an alternative to campus eating clubs, played trumpet in the pit orchestra for the Princeton Triangle Club, and volunteered at the Community House Preschool Program at the Pace Center.

For fun: Gottlieb likes to read, do crossword puzzles, cook and bake, and rock climb and run.