Rongrong Tao, DAC Ph.D. student in computer science

The prospect of being located in the heart of Northern Virginia drew Rongrong Tao to Virginia Tech and the Discovery Analytics Center in the National Capital Region. A Ph.D. student who earned a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Tao conducts research on misinformation detection and analysis.

“This location provides opportunities for collaboration with academic institutes in the metropolitan D.C. area and an advantage for future career advancement,” said Tao. After graduation, she would like to work in an industry where she can apply data mining techniques to real-world problems.

Tao said she particularly likes the variety of projects and different type of data available to students at DAC. “While working on our own projects, we can also collaborate with fellow students on other interesting projects,” she said.

Her most recent research is on fake news detection. “Compared to existing approaches which mostly treat fake news detection as a binary classification problem, we propose an approach to locate the pieces of misinformation out of the news stories,” Tao said.

Tao said that with so much information coming from so many sources it has become increasingly more difficult to tell whether the information is actually incomplete or manipulated on purpose. “Although domain experts may help clarify misinformation, it requires lots of labor and is hard to catch up with the rapid growth of information,” Tao said. “Hence, we are interested in automating misinformation detection by studying the mechanism of misinformation propagation.”

Previously she worked on an unsupervised approach to detect media self-censorship using social media as a sensor. In that research, the proposed framework is evaluated over six Latin American countries and can be used to provide an indicator of broader media freedom.

Tao coauthored STAPLE: Spatio-Temporal Precursor Learning for Event Forecasting published in the Proceedings of the 2018 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) International Conference on Data Mining.

Tao is projected to graduate in 2019.  Her advisor is Naren Ramakrishnan.