Edmond Zhang

Dr Edmond Zhang

Edmond Zhang, lead data scientist at Orion Health, attributes his success to postgraduate studies at the University of Waikato, emphasising its machine learning research group.

Lead Data Scientist at Orion Health

Edmond Zhang

For Edmond Zhang, doing his postgraduate study at the University of Waikato was a no-brainer.

“The machine learning research group, creators of WEKA, MOA, and ADAMS, in my opinion, makes Waikato the best place to do machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) research in New Zealand,” Edmond says. (WEKA, MOA and ADAMS are sophisticated open source software programs specifically designed for mining data streams.)

Today, Edmond is lead data scientist for Orion Health. He completed his three degrees at Waikato – a bachelor’s in software engineering, a master’s in computer science, and a PhD that included computer vision and machine learning.

“At Waikato, I was lucky enough to be able to do what I love. I learned early on that it's so important to find and do something that truly motivates you, when you can’t wait to get busy on the job. This is the stuff that doesn’t feel like work and excites me deeply.”

Edmond’s bachelor’s degree gave him a good grounding in computer programming and he learnt how to manually formulate and code rules using programming language. But his real excitement came when he moved into machine learning. “With machine learning, you have the idea of teaching computers to learn, without explicitly programmed, and then apply what they learn. All this just fascinates me.”

Orion Health is a global provider of health information technology, delivering software services and support for healthcare organisations, specialising in open technology systems. It’s a big organisation employing 500 people in 20 offices across 13 countries.

“My work is centred around improving health outcomes for people through data science. I’m involved in research projects, building software products and looking after a team of talented data scientists.”

While he works on several projects, a major multi-million-dollar project Edmond’s leading is called A Deep Learning Platform for GP Referrals Triage, which is working toward building the next-generation AI platform for delivering data science capabilities to the New Zealand health sector.

“Every day I get to work with a diverse range of talented people such as clinicians, engineers, designers, marketers, and researchers, all tackling real-world problems. Things that will make a real difference in people’s lives. It’s satisfying work.”

He thinks when students are beginning their studies they shouldn’t specialise too early – go broad and generalist. “You want to explore and know more about different domains/fields/topics to get a really good sense about what you might want to specialise in. It might take you longer to find your path, but because of your diverse and rich experience, you’ll be able to make good connections that those specialists without that experience often cannot.”

And if you don't know your passion or what you want to study yet, Edmond says “don't panic”.

“In today's fast-changing world, your current dream job may not even exist in 10 or 20 years from now. So it's best to develop your grit and work on becoming more resilient.

“It's important to devote the necessary time to master a skill related to your passion. Once you've done this, you'll likely have your choice of jobs that will pay you to exercise that skill. Don’t get too distracted by fears about the future and instead focus on the now. If you make the most of each day, the future will take care of itself.”

Edmond Zhang

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