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January 2015

Winter at the University of Rochester

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When I was applying for graduate school, I was considering three universities. Two of them were in warm states (California and Florida), and the other one was the University of Rochester in upstate New York. Considering that I come from Algeria, which is a warm country situated in North Africa, I obviously feared the cold weather in Rochester. This fear was pushing me to cut my list down to the two warmer cities. However, after weighing the pros and cons of living and studying in a cold city, I decided to pick Rochester, which is a great University that is known to have a very harsh winter.

Even though Rochester is one of the top 3 snowiest cities in the United States (according to Accuweather), I looked at the bright side of it. Living in a cold climate would oblige you to stay indoors more often than if you were in a warm city like Los Angeles. The benefit I sought in this is the fact that being indoors encourages you to dedicate more time to studying. I personally wouldn’t have spent a lot of time at the library if I had plenty of outdoor activities available in winter.

Besides, the University of Rochester is aware of the limitations weather puts on students’ mobility. In order to tackle this problem, the U of R offers a bunch of accommodations that ease the lives of students. As a matter of fact, shuttles are available to transport students from on-campus and off-campus housing locations to the University. These shuttles are a convenient, safe and free means of transportation for students who want to get around and stay warm. Moreover, shuttles are provided twice a week to shopping locations like the mall, the international food market, Walmart, Wegmans, and others.

In addition to that, the University has an underground tunnel network that connects different buildings on campus. These tunnels allow students to go from one side of the campus to the other without being exposed to bad weather.

On the other side, some students take advantage of the cold weather and snow, and enjoy practicing winter sports. In fact, a couple of ski resorts are within driving distance from the University, which could be a great getaway for the weekend after a stressful week at school. Also, organizations at the University like the International Students Organization (ISO) and the Simon Outdoor Adventure Club organize ski trips on an annual basis.

For all of these reasons, the University of Rochester helped my fear of cold weather go away. Actually, the available accommodations for students made me become indifferent to the weather. I learned how a negative situation could be turned into a positive one if you put in enough effort and resources, which is exactly what the University of Rochester does. I also learned to look at the big picture and take advantage of the snowy weather to turn it into good grades and a lot of fun.


– Amir Ianis KHELIL ’15 (MS)

Amir Khelil


data screens

Diving into Data Mining

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As part of the TEAM program, students are encouraged to take up to three technical elective courses. This is a perfect complement to the core entrepreneurship management courses as it allows us to get in touch with the latest technologies available and focus on those specific areas that might be needed to develop our future startups. In my case, coming from a computer science background and being deeply interested in the creation of web and mobile apps, I decided to take the courses Data Mining and Human Computer Interaction during the fall semester. I can say today that I could not have made a better decision. I learned a lot from both courses and more importantly, I was able to put my knowledge into practice by working on small projects requiring my data science and computer science skills. On top of that, after finishing the semester, I was asked by both professors to do research for each of the courses, so that means I will be able to further dive into the stuff I love and will have plenty of time to do it!

In this post, I am going to talk about Data Mining and will leave Human Computer Interaction for my next article. Data Mining is the extraction of interesting patterns within large sets of data by using several different techniques related to artificial intelligence, statistics, machine learning, and database systems. These patterns are then translated into useful information that can be easily understood by end users or clients. So for example, a supermarket might use data mining in order to analyze its customers’ purchases and make smart decisions based on the results of the research. These might help to understand the different kinds of customers who shop at the supermarket, what they seek, how much they spend on average, and which products they usually buy. It might also help to find correlations between products (e.g., if most of the customers who buy gin also buy tonic and lemons), or even to predict whether putting a new product on a specific shelf would be a good decision, or if it should be put somewhere else. There is a story that years ago, Walmart found that many young American males bought diapers and beer together, a correlation that is unexpected and not obvious at first glance. You would expect customers buying diapers to also buy baby food, for example, but not beer. After doing some analysis, researchers reached the conclusion that these were young new fathers who were asked by their wives to go out to buy some diapers and, once they were at the shop, took the chance to also get some beer!

There is plenty of bibliographical material you can read about this fascinating discipline so I will stop talking about Data Mining and tell you about the project I worked on during the end of the course. Christmas was coming and I wanted to give a book as a gift to a friend and so I faced the problem: what books would this friend like? Gustame is an app I developed to address this problem. By signing in to the site using their Facebook accounts, users are able to see a list of their friends and for each of those friends, get recommendations based on the Facebook pages related to books they already like. Sounds tricky, huh? Then I should not mention that it uses an open knowledge database (Freebase) to disambiguate redundant entities and that it uses a Slope One algorithm based on your closed graph of contacts to make the recommendation… but I will give you an example so you can figure out how it works.

  • Your friend Albert has liked the Facebook pages “The Hobbit – the book” and “Alice in Wonderland,” so we might assume he has read those two books.
  • Your other friends Bob and Claire also liked those two pages, as well as “The Chronicles of Narnia Books”, which Albert hasn’t. This means they have similar tastes to Albert and that they have read a book Albert might enjoy reading too.
  • You get a recommendation to give Albert the books “The Chronicles of Narnia” as a gift.

However, I invite you to just go and try the app yourself by visiting! Any suggestions are welcome!


– Agustin Baretto ’15 (MS)



Courtney and friends

Winter Break: Family Traditions and Quality Time with Friends

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For me, winter break has always been a great time spent with family and friends. This occurs naturally because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that occur over this break. These holidays are some of my favorite because they are a time of happiness, joy, and peace.

Christmas is filled with many traditions in my family. On Christmas Eve, my family attends mass at our parish, St. Pius X Church. At this mass, there is a reenactment of the nativity for children. I always enjoy seeing this play because when I was in middle school and high school I played many different roles and it is a great pastime for me. I love to see that it is still a part of the tradition of the Church.

After mass, my family goes to my paternal grandmother’s house to have dinner and exchange gifts with my father’s side of the family. Our dinner includes some traditional Polish food like pierogies and pickled herring. Prior to dinner, we participate in the Polish tradition of the breaking of the oplatek (Christmas wafer). Each family member is given a piece of the oplatek and goes around the table wishing everyone good health, joy, and happiness for the upcoming year while sharing a piece of the wafer. It is tradition that this breaking of the oplatek begins with my grandmother and follows in a sequential order based on age. This is a great way for my family to reconnect with everyone and spend some time cooking

On Christmas Day, we spend the whole day at my house and my mother’s family comes for dinner. The day begins with a gift exchange between my immediate family and presents from Santa Claus. It has become a new tradition that my sister and I assist our mother with making hors d’oeuvres for the day, as well as baking desserts for after dinner. Each year, my mother makes lasagna in order to touch on our Italian roots. She is quite famous for her lasagna and each year I think it gets better and better. It is wonderful to see my family on Christmas Day as my cousins are beginning to grow their families with marriages and children and this is a great time to see all the growth that has happened in the past year.

New Year’s has always been a fun holiday for me because it is a time to celebrate the approaching year as well as to reflect on the previous year. In 2014, I had the privilege to graduate from college, enter graduate school, and begin my adult life. To celebrate this New Year’s Eve, I traveled to Boston, MA with some of my best friends from high school. This was great because we haven’t been able to spend this much time with one another since before entering college and it allowed for a truly memorable experience. Whether it was walking the streets of the North End, grabbing lunch in Quincy Market, or stopping at the outlets for some shopping, it was a wonderful start to the year.

These holidays were the highlights of my break and I now feel rested and excited to return to Rochester for another semester in the TEAM program!


– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)



Holiday Lights

My Favorite Class

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At the end of the fall quarter, we finally made it to our final exams. It was time to review what we already knew, think about what we had learned and combine knowledge across disciplines, honing our skills in comprehensive thinking, as an entrepreneur should do.

For this blog I want to share more about TEM 401: Economics, Marketing and Strategy, my favorite class. Economics is a science to satisfy both human needs and wants in an efficient way under “Pareto Efficiency”, providing us with a foundation for understanding the mechanism of the economic marketplace and how a company should react to survive among the fierce competition. Studying both consumer and firm behaviors and learning how they interact with each other helped us thoroughly analyze the problem and determine the demand and supply conditions in the market by solving the equilibrium analysis. Further, we predicted the outcomes of interactions among participants with interdependent payoffs by using Game Theory to model the behavior of each individual.

If you have a company, how can your company survive price competition without killing all the profit? What are your strategy and tactics? How do you identify the determinants of market structure? Output levels? Price? What are customers’ concerns and what do they benefit from? How do you promote and place your company? After building on the economic models, we explored these market issues with the 3C-STP-4P models through real case studies and business write-ups, going far beyond the textbooks.

Our final project was a case analysis. During the project, we learned that operating a company successfully is overwhelmingly difficult. We needed to know the exact needs of the customer and how we could benefit them directly through our products and services with our own sources and strength. How we position and differentiate ourselves compared to the competitors were also crucial issues. After figuring these out, we needed to deal with thorny follow-up questions on the company’s strategy and tactics. Which are exactly the right strategy and tactics? Who knows!

If TEM 440 Screening Technical Opportunities just tells you how to start a company, TEM 401 teaches you how to run a start-up company profitably in the long run. Maintaining is harder than starting.

Entrepreneurship is like a mountain that’s too big to climb, but that’s also why it is so rewarding.


– Jill Jin ’15 (MS)Jill Jin Pic