Meet a Data Scientist: Karen Chen

UMBC assistant professor Karen Chen


Dr. Karen Chen earned her undergraduate degree in international business and computer science from Shanghai Jiaotong University, P.R.China. She earned her master’s degrees in Information Systems (2004) and Statistics (2012) from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). She went on to earn her PhD in Information Systems in 2020 from the School of Information Systems & Management at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University.

Prior to earning her PhD, Dr. Chen was a certified public accountant for a big 4 accounting firm and a financial analyst with a Fortune 500 company. She also had a short stint in journalism and, after earning her first master’s degree at CMU, she spent about 15 years at the Auton Lab at Carnegie Mellon University under the guidance of Dr. Artur Dubrawski. Dr. Chen describes her time in the Auton Lab as critical to her development as a researcher and educator because it exposed her to the powerful impact of research on real-world applications.

Current Role

Dr. Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Systems, College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and she leads the Lab for Informatics for Human Flourishing.

Dr. Chen specializes in medical informatics and educational informatics. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including a seed grant from ADSA for her work with Shimei Pan examining approaches for weaving ethical considerations into data science pedagogy.

Dr. Chen has an equal split between research, teaching, and service. On a day-to-day basis, however, her time allocation varies considerably, depending on the number of courses that she is teaching. To effectively tackle the tasks ahead, Dr. Chen carves out time on Sunday for lesson planning and scheduling. She also reserves time every morning for deep work (i.e., intellectual tasks that require 100% concentration).

Career Advice

For junior scholars who are looking for ways to advance their data science skills, Dr. Chen strongly encourages them to seek opportunities to work on real projects, particularly projects that involve messy data. This is a common recommendation among data scientists, for example, Dr. Emily Saras heavily emphasized this during our Sociology Career Panel. A couple ways to get this experience is by applying to internships and volunteering. The more experience you can get, the better.

Dr. Chen also encourages junior scholars to follow their curiosity. Dr. Chen lives by her advice. Despite multiple years of professional experience and having obtained multiple graduate degrees, as faculty at UMBC, she’s taken undergraduate-level math courses to advance her understanding of certain data science methods. She’s not the first to say this. For example, during our Climate Science Career Panel, Dr. Mathew Hauer mentioned taking linear algebra to improve his comprehension of data science methods. The key takeaway is not to be afraid to step back sometimes and revisit foundational concepts. Sometimes you may find that you may benefit from taking a class in this area to strengthen your understanding.

Outside of Work

Dr. Chen enjoys listening to podcasts while nature walking, which she tries to do every morning. She’s also deeply curious and enjoys learning new skills and talking with people of all ages from diverse backgrounds to learn about their perspectives of the world.

How to Connect

Check out Dr. Chen’s profile in the CDN Member Directory to learn more about her research and how to get in touch.


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