Data Scientist Junior/Senior, Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI)

Data Scientist Junior/Senior, Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI)

University Overview

The University of Pennsylvania, the largest private employer in Philadelphia, is a world-renowned leader in education, research, and innovation. This historic, Ivy League school consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in the annual U.S. News & World Report survey. Penn has 12 highly-regarded schools that provide opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education, all influenced by Penn's distinctive interdisciplinary approach to scholarship and learning. As an employer Penn has been ranked nationally on many occasions with the most recent award from Forbes who named Penn one of America's Best Employers By State in 2021.

Penn offers a unique working environment within the city of Philadelphia. The University is situated on a beautiful urban campus, with easy access to a range of educational, cultural, and recreational activities. With its historical significance and landmarks, lively cultural offerings, and wide variety of atmospheres, Philadelphia is the perfect place to call home for work and play.

The University offers a competitive benefits package that includes excellent healthcare and tuition benefits for employees and their families, generous retirement benefits, a wide variety of professional development opportunities, supportive work and family benefits, a wealth of health and wellness programs and resources, and much more.

COVID-19 vaccination is a requirement for all positions at the University of Pennsylvania. New hires are expected to be fully vaccinated before beginning work at the University. For more information about Penn's vaccine requirements and the use of Penn Open Pass, visit the Penn COVID-19 Response website for the latest information.

Posted Job Title
Data Scientist Junior/Senior, Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI)

Job Profile Title
Data Analyst D

Job Description Summary
The Data Scientist Junior/Senior will work with the Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI) on data science applications for a wide range of innovative, heavily data-driven projects. The Data Scientist will report directly to the PDRI academic directors.

Job Description

The Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI) brings together researchers from seven schools across UPenn who have interests in international development, writ large. PDRI, founded in 2020, seeks to foster inter-disciplinary research by harnessing the extensive experience of its affiliates in both basic social science and program evaluation, drawing upon diverse disciplinary perspectives. PDRI serves as a launchpad for pursuing extramurally-funded research that includes, but is not limited to, collaborations with international NGOs, local NGOs, and government agencies while serving as an intellectual community for Penn faculty and graduate students conducting research in developing countries. PDRI's research focuses on a wide range of issue areas, including crime, education, health, governance, environment, labor markets, migration, poverty, and economic growth.

PDRI, and UPenn more broadly, are at the very forefront of applying data science to important social issues, and provide a uniquely stimulating work environment for data scientists. Several leading data science and statistics clusters, including the Data Driven Discovery Initiative and the Center for Causal Inference, are housed at Penn and organize regular events, convenings, and courses. Through DevLab@Penn , PDRI is also directly involved with the Machine Learning for Peace program, which applies machine learning tools to understand how civic space is changing around the world.

PDRI/DevLab is a highly collaborative, collegial environment, with a number of researchers working on applying data science methods to the most pressing policy challenges of our time.


The Data Scientist will work on data-driven PDRI projects through the application of advanced data science tools. The Data Scientist will be responsible for several distinct data-intensive tasks. For one, this includes collecting data using a variety of data extraction tools (e.g., web-scraping, API usage, data mining), to retrieve data ranging from structured to highly unstructured data for research projects. It also includes data wrangling and management tasks (e.g., data cleaning and manipulation, including merging, transforming, and labeling data, training and predicting data, using machine learning approaches for classification tasks). The Data Scientist will also be responsible for data visualization (creating figures, tables, maps, and infographics for academic papers) and data analysis tasks (including geo-spatial analysis, natural language processing (NLP), and statistical analysis). The Data Scientist may also work on survey programming using tools including Qualtrics and Survey-to-Go.

A Senior Data Scientist would additionally develop new research tools, serve as co-PI on data science projects, and provide advanced technical advice and coaching on data science applications to junior data scientists and other researchers across PDRI and Penn.

This is an exciting position for an exceptional candidate to contribute to cutting edge data science research in a fast-paced and fast-growing research initiative. The selected candidate will become part of the UPenn international development and data science communities, and will have significant scope to help shape the practice of data science at PDRI and UPenn.


Required qualifications (all candidates):
  • Undergraduate degree in Computer Science or Engineering; or graduate degree in Public Policy, Statistics, or other quantitative field with a specialization in Data Science, with 2-3 years of experience working in data science or in other data-intensive roles, or equivalent combination of education and experience
  • Excellent data science and analytical skills
  • High level of proficiency working with relevant software tools (e.g., R, Python)
  • Experience applying advanced data science methods (e.g., machine learning, web-scraping) to data collection and wrangling/management
  • Experience in analyzing data using geospatial tools, text-as-data approaches, natural language processing, and/or related tools

Preferred qualifications (all candidates):
  • Proven ability to independently carry out data science projects with little guidance from supervisors
  • Demonstrated ability to independently acquire new data science skills, depending on project needs
  • Experience with impact evaluation projects involving randomized controlled trials (need not be in an academic setting)
  • Knowledge of and experience with probability and statistics, research design, and causal inference
  • Excellent communication skills in written and spoken English

Required qualifications (for Senior Data Scientist):
  • Graduate degree in Computer Science, Engineering, Data Science, or other relevant field with a specialization in Data Science and 1-2 years of experience working in data science or in other data-intensive roles, or equivalent combination of education and experience, or a PhD in Computer Science, Engineering, Data Science or other relevant field
  • Advanced data science and statistical skills
  • High level of proficiency with a variety of data science and statistical tools, including machine learning approaches, geospatial analysis, natural language processing, and related tools

Preferred qualifications (Senior Data Scientist):
  • Experience leading or co-leading academic data science projects as PI or co-PI
  • Experience working with complex data, such as satellite imagery, nightlight density, climatological data, and/or digital footprints such as phone metadata
  • Experience developing new data science tools (e.g., developing new packages for software applications)
  • Experience managing or coaching junior data scientists

Targeted Pay Range:

Junior Level $51,824 to $95,000

Senior Level $61,046 to $115,000

This Targeted Pay Range is only applicable to this job posting. All salary offers are made based on the candidate's qualifications, experience, skills, and education as they directly relate to the requirements of the position, as well as internal and market factors and grade profile.

Job Location - City, State
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Department / School
School of Arts and Sciences

Pay Range
$61,046.00 - $132,906.66
Salary offers are made based on the candidate's qualifications, experience, skills, and education as they directly relate to the requirements of the position, as well as internal and market factors and grade profile.

Affirmative Action Statement
Penn adheres to a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected class.

Special Requirements
Background check required after a conditional job offer is made. Consideration of the background check will be tailored to the requirements of the job.

University Benefits
  • Health, Life, and Flexible Spending Accounts: Penn offers comprehensive medical, prescription, behavioral health, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits to protect you and your family's health and welfare. You can also use flexible spending accounts to pay for eligible health care and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars.
  • Tuition: Take advantage of Penn's exceptional tuition benefits. You, your spouse, and your dependent children can get tuition assistance here at Penn. Your dependent children are also eligible for tuition assistance at other institutions.
  • Retirement: Penn offers generous retirement plans to help you save for your future. Penn's Basic, Matching, and Supplemental retirement plans allow you to save for retirement on a pre-tax or Roth basis. Choose from a wide variety of investment options through TIAA and Vanguard.
  • Time Away from Work: Penn provides you with a substantial amount of time away from work during the course of the year. This allows you to relax, take vacations, attend to personal affairs, recover from illness or injury, spend time with family-whatever your personal needs may be.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: In partnership with Genworth Financial, Penn offers faculty and staff (and your eligible family members) long-term care insurance to help you cover some of the costs of long-term care services received at home, in the community or in a nursing facility. If you apply when you're newly hired, you won't have to provide proof of good health or be subject to underwriting requirements. Eligible family members must always provide proof of good health and are subject to underwriting.
  • Wellness and Work-life Resources: Penn is committed to supporting our faculty and staff as they balance the competing demands of work and personal life. That's why we offer a wide variety of programs and resources to help you care for your health, your family, and your work-life balance.
  • Professional and Personal Development: Penn provides an array of resources to help you advance yourself personally and professionally.
  • University Resources: As a member of the Penn community, you have access to a wide range of University resources as well as cultural and recreational activities. Take advantage of the University's libraries and athletic facilities, or visit our arboretum and art galleries. There's always something going on at Penn, whether it's a new exhibit at the Penn Museum, the latest music or theater presentation at the Annenberg Center, or the Penn Relays at Franklin Field to name just a few examples. As a member of the Penn community, you're right in the middle of the excitement-and you and your family can enjoy many of these activities for free.
  • Discounts and Special Services: From arts and entertainment to transportation and mortgages, you'll find great deals for University faculty and staff. Not only do Penn arts and cultural centers and museums offer free and discounted admission and memberships to faculty and staff. You can also enjoy substantial savings on other goods and services such as new cars from Ford and General Motors, cellular phone service plans, movie tickets, and admission to theme parks.
  • Flexible Work Hours: Flexible work options offer creative approaches for completing work while promoting balance between work and personal commitments. These approaches involve use of non-traditional work hours, locations, and/or job structures.
  • Penn Home Ownership Services: Penn offers a forgivable loan for eligible employees interested in buying a home or currently residing in West Philadelphia, which can be used for closing costs or home improvements.
  • Adoption Assistance: Penn will reimburse eligible employees on qualified expenses in connection with the legal adoption of an eligible child, such as travel or court fees, for up to two adoptions in your household.

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