Faces of UMSI: Tzu-Yu (Danny) Wu

As a former data analyst for a large telecommunications and financial company in Taiwan, UMSI PhD candidate Tzu-Yu (Danny) Wu realized he preferred to be more involved in the planning stage of analytics.

“I was not satisfied in my job. I had a bachelor’s degree and thought if I got a master’s, it would help me learn about the planning side,” Danny said. “I wanted to seek a job where I would be able to investigate interesting problems, generate an analysis plan, and do data inquiries too.”

UMSI’s interdisciplinary focus allowed Danny to expand his language abilities and experience a different style of learning while specializing in Information Analysis and Retrieval. During his master’s education, a joint project with his advisors Associate Prof. Kai Zheng and Assistant Prof. Qiaozhu Mei turned Danny’s focus to a PhD in Health Informatics. The project involved a Chinese version of Web MD which allows patients to interact with doctors in an online forum. “I was interested in what factors play into the process of patients choosing a doctor,” Danny said, adding that he enjoyed discussing meaningful research questions. “There’s sort of no limit as to how you can think of a problem.”

Danny’s dissertation is focused on clinical workflow and documentation. “My target is clinicians – providing a documentation system to support and allow a higher level of efficiency in their workflow,” he said. He is also researching ways to capture high-quality data in a more efficient way.

He has enjoyed working as a teaching assistant in Taiwan and as an SI graduate student instructor, but he is not sure whether academia or industry will be his career choice just yet. “I enjoy the process of sharing knowledge with people. I also learn from teaching,” he said, adding that teaching improves cutting edge research by providing instructors with insights into the innovative and creative thinking of their students.

Working as a lead programmer analyst for the Michigan Congenital Heart Center at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Division for Urology Health Service Research, Danny has invaluable access to doctors. “You need to immerse yourself in your learning when doing clinical research,” he said. “I am programming systems for doctors. If they propose a software issue, I can think of a larger question about how to make sense of it in a clinical environment.” 

Danny is also interested in how layperson language and professional medical language are used in clinical environments, which is explored in “Bridging the Gap between Information Availability and Information Utility when Sharing Narrative Clinician Notes with Patients,” a project conducted through the Clinical and Consumer Informatics Research Group led by Prof. Zheng, one of two UMSI research groups Danny is actively involved in. The project is focused on helping breast cancer patients better interpret medical documents and put the information to meaningful use. 

Danny, who has a BBA in Information Management from National Taiwan University and MSI specializing in Information Retrieval from U-M, expects to graduate in late 2015.