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David Llanos (PhD)


Position: Data Scientist

Employer: Gallup

Current City: Princeton, NJ

Please tell us about your career

I help clients effectively use data to make better decisions by applying various statistical and machine learning techniques to a wide variety of challenging questions.  Most of the time we use data generated by Gallup, clients and various third parties (e.g., governments, IGOs, NGOs and Web-generated data).

What motivated you to obtain a doctorate in political science?

Political scientist develop systematic models to understand individuals and large-scale social behavior issues. These models and the insights derived from them have been really useful in understanding and predicting different outcomes of interest such as consumer spending, lifestyle trends, political stability, election results, and employee performance and retention.

What’s the link between your political science studies and your career path?

Professor Tedin’s classes on public opinion and survey research were inspiring in understanding the complexities and nuances in dealing with public opinion data.  Likewise, Professor Cortina’s courses on causal inference and his independent study on political psychology provided to me excellent tools to better understand the scope and limitations of the scientific method and different models to analyze individual behavior. Finally, with Professor Granato I learned how to use a comprehensive framework that allowed me to integrate mathematical and statistical tools in answering difficult real-life questions.

Do you have any advice for students who aspire to hold a job like yours?

The amount of data and emerging methods and tools to analyze it have been growing exponentially during the last years and there are good reasons to believe that this trend will continue on the same path.  Having said that, my advice is to maintain the habit of permanently learning new tools and exploring new data because self-learners will be in high-demand when it comes to tackle complex problems.