Youyang Gu is a data scientist and practical machine learning expert. He is the creator of covid19-projections.com, a site dedicated to accurate modeling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The site, which combined a classic infectious disease model with machine learning to make death forecasts for all 50 US states and 70+ countries, has been cited by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help inform public health decision making. Since its creation in April 2020, it quickly became one of the most widely-referenced models in academia, media, government, and industry. Due to its reputation as the most accurate model during its time, covid19-projections.com has been widely featured by national and international media outlets, including The Economist, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, among others.
From November 2020 to March 2021, Youyang focused his efforts on estimating the number of true COVID-19 infections in all 50 states and 3,000+ counties in the US, as well as projecting vaccination rollouts and the path to normality. He is known for his unbiased, unpolitical, and data-driven analysis of COVID-19 on Twitter (list of threads).
Prior to his COVID-19 modeling work, Youyang honed his cross-disciplinary research skills in a variety of fields: tech, trading/finance, and sports analytics. He is a strong believer in using simple machine learning models to create practical predictions and solutions. Many current applications of machine learning are heavily theoretical and complex in nature, giving them little to no practical use in a real, fast-paced environment. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these existing shortcomings.
Youyang completed his Bachelor’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), double majoring in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Mathematics. He also received his Master’s degree at MIT, completing his thesis as part of the Natural Language Processing group at the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
His story has been featured in the 2014 book Young Leaders 3.0: Stories, Insights, and Tips for Next-Generation Achievers. In his free time, Youyang enjoys skiing (or snowboarding if there’s fresh powder to soften the wipeouts), looking for good trades in fantasy football, and driving during fall foliage.
Youyang is always interested in learning more about how data-oriented modeling can be used to tackle public health and systemic inequality challenges. You can contact him by using the Contact page.