Intern profile – Iris Tien

Research Manager Fereydoon Safai and intern Iris Tien.

This is a series of profiles featuring interviews with some of this year's crop of summer interns at HP Labs.

We continue the series with an interview with Iris Tien who was recruited by the Services Research Lab.

Summer intern Haiyi Lobby
Intern Iris Tien

A Bay Area native, Iris Tien gets to stay with her parents in Cupertino while interning at HP Labs’ Palo Alto campus.  “It’s good, actually!” she assures us, “plus I get to bike to work about twice a week.”  Usually, Tien lives over in Berkeley, where she’s entering her fourth year as a PhD student in Systems Engineering at the University of California. She attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, too, majoring in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  When she’s not crunching numbers, Tien enjoys playing basketball and tennis, listening to opera, and making jewelry.

HP: What have you been working on during your internship?
I’ve been working with Zainab Jamal and Fereydoon Safai in HP’s Services Research Lab as part of the Marketing Optimization Project. Specifically, I’ve been looking at HP customer data and relating it to how HP spends its online marketing resources.  I’m interested in understanding how the channels through which people arrive at the HP Shopping site – like search, coupons or email -- impact what different customers do.

HP: Can you tell us what you’ve found out?
Well, a lot of this is proprietary, but we’ve been able to see on an aggregate level which channels are most effective and then how those translate into individual customers being purchasers or non-purchasers based on which channel they come through.  The hope is that by creating new models based on real customer data, we can better optimize marketing decisions.

HP: What are the research skills that you are applying here?
It’s data analysis, mostly, and some statistical modeling.

HP: How has your HP internship related to your PhD work at Berkeley?
My thesis is based more on bio-medical applications, but this has allowed me to apply a lot of the methods and techniques that I’m using there to a new problem with new sets of data.  And this is the most data that I’ve ever worked with.  In learning how to get my hands around such large data sets, I’m also learning new methods and techniques that are definitely going to be valuable for the future.

HP:  How did you come to be interning at HP Labs?
I’m actually here through a National Science Foundation program called the Engineering Innovation Fellows Program.  One of its goals is to put PhD students into industry, to do research for the summer.  I feel like I’ve really benefited from being able to do that – it’s really opened my eyes to what research is like in industry.

HP: Has anything surprised you about interning at HP Labs?
I know this will sound funny, but I’ve been surprised that I’ve enjoyed it so much!  I began my PhD program thinking I wanted to be a professor because I really enjoyed teaching, but I wasn’t 100% sure about the research part of it. But the research environment here has been really fun to work in – both from a professional and a social standpoint – and that’s changed my perspective on research and my thoughts about what I might want to do and who I might want to work with in the future.