Science Alumni Spotlight: Rave Harpaz
Rewinding back time to the day I entered the CS program, I couldn’t have possibly imagined the path that has led me to my current occupation—a computational pharmacovigilant in Palo Alto California. As a graduate student I trained under the supervision of Prof Robert Haralick, and through our work together I discovered my passion for probability and statistics. It took me almost 7 years to graduate, during which I was fully supported by research grants, awards, and teaching opportunities. It was an amazing journey that allowed me to interact with many inspiring faculty and students, develop new skills, grow spiritually and intellectually, make great friends, and meet my wife, Suzanne, also an alumni of the program.
Like many students in NY with a similar background I hoped to work in finance after graduation, offering the potential to make big $$$ by doing computer science and statistics. Through the help of CS faculty I landed a job at Merrill Lynch as a Quant developing financial risk model. This too was a great experience, but short-lived due to the 2007 financial crisis.
To weather the storm, I decided to return to academia (at least that was the initial intent) and started a postdoc at the Dept. of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University. This is where I was introduced to what currently defines my professional career—pharmacovigilance—the science related to the detection and prevention of adverse drug reactions. This offered me the potential to make a significant impact in health care by alleviating a huge societal burden and preventing harm to patients caused by adverse reactions. At Columbia I worked on statistical algorithms to data-mine various medical data sources in order to identify signals of new adverse reactions.
Two years Iater I was offered a position at Stanford University as a Research Scientist, and together with my wife Suzanne decided to relocate to Palo Alto. At Stanford I continued to work on pharmacovigilance exploring new data sources such as electronic health records and the biomedical literature. There I also had the opportunity to closely collaborate with the FDA, and spend a summer at Microsoft Research developing a drug safety surveillance system based on the information seeking activates of users on the Web. After six fruitful years in academia I moved back to industry. Today I am a Senior Research Scientist at Oracle Health Sciences, where I work with a group of statisticians to develop new surveillance algorithms for detecting adverse drug reactions.
Though an unexpected path, I truly feel rewarded by my work, and I am grateful for the education and opportunities I was given by CUNY, the Graduate Center, and the CS program. If I were to offer words of advice to incoming CS students, it is that the Graduate Center and the CS program provide an optimal environment, opportunities, and all the ingredients necessary to achieve a professionally fulfilling career. Passion, hard work, and collaboration will make that a reality.