Igor Pruenster Faces the Modern Challenges of Data ScienceA FULL PROFESSOR AT THE DEPARTMENT OF DECISION SCIENCES, SINCE FEBRUARY HE'S BEEN SETTING UP THE BOCCONI INSTITUTE FOR DATA SCIENCE AND ANALYTICS, DIVIDING SCIENCE FROM FAD
In a scholarly perfect storm, all Igor Pruenster’s research interests have become fashionable in the last few years. Bayesian nonparametric statistics, his main research field, produced several success stories in application areas ranging from Computer Science and Machine Learning to Genomics and Biostatistics, while big data... well, who hasn’t heard of the miracles scientist can make with it? Igor, who has been a Full Professor at Bocconi’s Department of Decision Sciences since February 2016, is however wary of any fad. “When the big data buzz will fade away, data science will stay as an interdisciplinary research and education field”, he says. “And Bayesian nonparametric statistics can play a major role due to its vertical approach, running the gamut from theory to applications. The founder of modern Bayesian Statistics is the Italian Bruno de Finetti and the discipline has a long and important tradition at Bocconi, dating back to the ‘70s with Cifarelli and Regazzini, whose pioneering papers heavily impact research still today”.
After a degree in Economics at Bocconi, with a thesis in Statistics with Regazzini and Cifarelli, Igor obtained his PhD in Pavia in 2003, where he won a position as a Researcher (the first step of the academic career in Italy, regulated by public tenders) before completing the PhD. Then he moved to the University of Turin and its Collegio Carlo Alberto. A Full Professor since 2011, he’s the outgoing Scientific Director of Collegio Carlo Alberto and Fondazione de Castro’s Statistics Initiative. In 2015 he has been nominated Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the main international scientific society in Statistics and Probability – he has notably been the third Italy based scholar being bestowed such an honor, after de Finetti and Regazzini.
In his first months at Bocconi Igor has been setting up the Bocconi Institute for Data Science and Analytics (BIDSA), a soon-to-be hub for all the Bocconi scholars who intensively use data or develop methods to extract information from them.
Before moving to Bocconi, Igor spent a sabbatical year at UT Austin, USA, and – as always happens during his visits to North America – he watched a few ice-hockey matches, a passion he brought to Milan from his native South Tyrol, a mountain area in the Northeast of Italy. For the first three years of his university studies he even played himself in Como, in the Italian Serie A2.
by Fabio Todesco