Sharon Sputz
Executive Director of Strategic Programs
Contact Information:
212-854-6966 (Office)
201-787-6746 (Mobile)
1401 Northwest Corner Building

Sharon has combined experience in business strategy and technical research. Prior to joining the Institute in 2014, Sharon spent 11 years at BAE Systems identifying and pursuing new business opportunities in leading edge technology. She began her career at Bell Laboratories managing and coordinating material characterization as well as developing new and innovative tools. Sharon moved on to become the Strategic Marketing Manager at Lucent/Agere with a variety of responsibilities: from leading the technical evaluation of merger and acquisition candidates to defining product planning for the optical networking group and components. Sharon received a Bachelor of Science in Physics from State University of NY at Binghamton and a Masters of Science in Physics from Stevens Institute of Technology.



Ralph Scala
Ralph Scala
Director of Development
Contact Information:
622 West 113th Street

Ralph joined the Office of Alumni and Development in November of 2017 with specific responsibility of leading a comprehensive cross-campus fundraising effort for Columbia's Data Science Institute (DSI). Working in close partnership with DSI Director, Jeannette Wing, as well as DSI faculty and staff, Ralph will be responsible for creating and managing a development plan to support the strategic mission and goals of the Institute/Columbia.  He has over 28 years of development related experience at five leading universities, as well as two prestigious arts organizations.  Ralph received his Bachelor of Science, Industrial Engineering, and a Master of Business Administration from Binghamton University, State University of New York.


Brianne Cortese
Assistant Director of Admissions & Academic Affairs
Contact Information:
431 S.W. Mudd

Brianne is the Assistant Director of Admissions and Academic Affairs for the Data Science Institute, having initially joined DSI in 2014 as the Program Coordinator. Brianne promotes the Institute’s academic offerings through recruitment activities, information sessions, and advising prospective and current graduate students. Brianne provides strategic day-to-day support for the Institute's academic affairs, and she also contributes to the ongoing expansion of the Institute's educational offerings. Prior to joining DSI, Brianne was an Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions at William Paterson University of New Jersey.

Rachel Fuld Cohen
Assistant Director of Student Services & Career Development
Contact Information:
432 S.W. Mudd

Rachel joined the Institute in November 2014 as the Career Development Officer. In this capacity, she partners with students, corporations, and industry affiliates to leverage student talent into career opportunities. Rachel has prior experience working as a Career Consultant at Golden Gate University and a Graduate Advisor at San Francisco State University. Rachel’s corporate experience is in recruiting for companies such as HBO and Axiom Law. She received her Masters in Counseling, with a specialization in Career Counseling, from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Columbia University. Rachel’s interest in working with professionals in transition was reflected in her Masters thesis titled Connectwork: An Interactive Mobile Application for Counselors to use with Mid-Career Job Seekers. When Rachel has a free moment, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, eating candy and listening to podcasts.


Jonathan Stark
Chief Administrative and Operations Officer
Contact Information:
1401 Northwest Corner Building

Jonathan has fifteen years of professional experience working in higher education. As the Institute’s Chief Administrative & Operations Officer, he has managerial responsibilities for HR, Finance, Space, Facilities, and I.T., and supports the Institute's broad portfolio of educational, research, and outreach programs. In this role, Jonathan also serves on the Institute's leadership team helping with strategic planning and execution. From 2013-2017, he had served as the Institute's Director of Operations.  Prior to joining the Institute, he served as the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Affairs (2011-2013) and Student Affairs Officer (2005-2011) for the Office of Graduate Student Affairs for the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. His expertise includes academic administration, student development and advising, conflict resolution, university admissions, event planning and management. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Psychology from Western CT State University, an M.A. Applied Organizational Psychology from Fairfield University, and an M.A. in Higher Education from Teachers College of Columbia University.  He is currently pursuing his Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. In his spare time, Jonathan performs regularly as a bassoonist and clarinetist with a number of local community orchestras and music ensembles.

Brendan Feifer
Assistant Director of HR and Operations
Contact Information:
1401 Northwest Corner Building

As the Assistant Director of Human Resources and Operations, Brendan is responsible for ensuring the Data Science Institute’s talent pool and administrative practices and policies are delivered efficiently and effectively. Prior to joining the Institute, Brendan worked as the Director of Human Resources and Operations at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Brendan holds a BS in Business Administration from Towson University and a Masters Degree in Labor Relations and Human Resources Management from New York Institute of Technology. In 2016 Brendan also received his Certified Professional accreditation from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). In his spare time, Brendan enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and fishing on the Great South Bay. 

Leslie Barna
Executive Assistant
Contact Information:
1401 Northwest Corner Building

Leslie is Executive Assistant to the Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute, Jeannette M. Wing. She initially joined the Institute as Assistant Director of Operations in August 2014. Leslie has been with Columbia University since 2010 when she started as Executive Assistant to the Vice Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. In 2011, she was promoted to Assistant Director of Academic and Faculty Affairs and in 2013 served as Department Administrator for the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering. Prior to joining the Columbia community, she spent five years in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, serving as a Support Specialist with Raymond James Financial Services and later as a Curriculum Support Specialist with St. Petersburg College, before deciding to return to her hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Leslie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from SUNY Albany. In her spare time, she enjoys Netflix binges, perfecting her golf swing, traveling, and adoring her rescue dog, Lucy.

Sharnice Ottley
Program Coordinator

Contact Information:
407 S.W. Mudd

Sharnice Ottley joined the Institute as a Program Coordinator in September 2016. She provides support for the Institute's day-to-day operations and special events. Sharnice earned her Bachelor's degree in Visual Arts Administration and Communications from Baruch College. Before coming aboard at Columbia, she has had experience working in education, museum studies and event planning. In her spare time, Sharnice enjoys taking ballet classes, fantasizing over the latest fashion trends and learning as much as she can from the world around her.

Jessica Rodriguez

Jessica Rodriguez
Manager of Events and Special Programs

Contact Information:
1401 Northwest Corner Building

Jessica joined the Data Science Institute in January 2018.  She provides oversight of all events & special programs in the Institute’s portfolio.  Prior to this she was with the Electrical Engineering Department at Columbia Engineering for eight years, serving as the External Relations & Communications Manager before her departure. In 2007, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from the UCLA. She began her higher education administration career as Faculty Support Staff at the UCLA Anderson School of Management shortly after graduating. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys reading, writing, exploring NYC’s small neighborhood gems, and spoiling her dog BooBoo and cat Rosie as much as possible.


Robert Florida
Assistant Director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Contact Information:
201-725-6435 (Mobile)
320I Interchurch

Robert is a writer who delights in turning complex scientific research into plain and simple English. It’s his job to promote the Institute’s myriad successes, which include pioneering research, educating the next generation of data scientists and collaborating with industry partners. As Assistant Director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations, Robert focuses on the Institute’s harnessing of data to foster innovation, solve societal problems and develop New York City as a thriving tech center. Before DSI, Robert was a staff writer for Columbia University’s Teachers College, where he promoted the college’s effort to improve education and eliminate inequality in America’s schools. And before Teachers College, he worked at New Jersey Institute of Technology for 15 years as a writer and public relations director. He wrote about STEM research, humanitarian engineering and the success of first-generation students. He has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and a master’s in literature from Middlebury College. He also studied English Literature at Oxford University’s Lincoln College. While a journalist, he worked at daily newspapers, weeklies and magazines in the metro region. He also taught journalism and writing at three colleges.


Daniel Alicea
Associate Director of Finance and Grants Management
Contact Information:
320E Interchurch

Daniel has been with Columbia University for over 10 years working in various positions at the Universities Medical Center & Morningside Campus. As Associate Director of Finance and Grants Management for the Institute, he works closely with the Director of Operations, managing the financial aspects of the institute, including setting up the financial structure of the Institute, assisting with sponsored project proposal budgets, coordinating with the Institutes centers on their financial needs and other day-to-day financial matters.

Mark A. Habana
Associate Director of Research and Grants Development

Contact Information:
320D Interchurch

Mark joined the Data Science Institute in January 2016 tasked with building the Institute's grants portfolio in both public and private sector funding. He began his professional career as an Analytical Chemist at Nabisco and later Kraft's R&D organization, where he was involved in both research projects and company diversity initiatives. An eventual career transition led to positions at Liberty Science Center, Columbia University and NYU School of Medicine in the areas of grant fundraising and sponsored projects administration. Mark received a Bachelors Degree in Biology and English from The College of New Jersey. He also received his MPA in Non-Profit Management from Seton Hall University and a Master of Science in Fundraising Management at Columbia University.

Idrija Ibrahimagic
Manager of Finance and Grants
Contact Information:
320I Interchurch

Idrija holds a BBA in finance and investments from Baruch College, City University of New York. She joined the Data Science Institute in April 2013.  Prior to working with DSI, she held various positions at the University’s Medical Center and Morningside Campus, and worked at Chase bank and the financial company Salomon Smith Barney. She closely works with financial coordinators as well as a post and pre award directors on assisting with day-to-day financial management (mostly post award). In her free time, she enjoys traveling.

Eileen Irizarry
Finance and Grants Analyst
Contact Information:
431 S.W. Mudd

Eileen joined the Data Science Institute as the Financial Coordinator in January 2015. She works closely with the Business Manager assisting with grants management and the day-to-day financial needs of the Department. Eileen started at Columbia University in 2012 as the Administrative Assistant in the Earth and Environmental Engineering Department. In 2013, she assumed the role as the EEE Department's Financial Assistant. Prior to joining Columbia University, she spent two years as a College Assistant in the Psychology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, while working towards earning a BA/MA in Forensic Psychology.

Deepti Attavar
Deepti Attavar
Financial Coordinator
Contact Information:
431 S.W. Mudd

Deepti holds a BA in accounting and information systems from Queens College, City University of New York. She started working at National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University in August 2016 as a junior accountant where she worked closely with the center’s administrative director to ensure that NCCP’s financial transactions are in compliance with Columbia University policy and the government of New York. Before joining NCCP in August 2016, she held accounting and administrative positions in healthcare and academia, including working as a junior accountant for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. During my free time Deepti practices yoga and meditation.


Michael Holve
Assistant Director of Information Technology
Contact Information:
1004 Northwest Corner Building

Michael is responsible for the design, implementation, and maintenance of the internal IT infrastructure for the Data Science Institute. He is a business-oriented technology leader with proficiencies in IT infrastructure solutions architecture, technology management, strategic planning and implementation, project management, business process integration and standardization. Prior to joining the Institute, Michael has helped a variety of organizations ranging from small startups to larger corporations achieve their Information Technology goals, employing best of breed practices in both eCommerce and Enterprise spaces. His experience started at the dawn of the personal computer age and has for the last 20+ years been deeply involved the next epoch - the Internet age. Specializing in the architecture of fault-tolerant, highly-available infrastructures utilizing Unix systems, networking and a variety of mass storage. He’s been a proponent of the Linux operating system since its beginning - and a contributor to Open Source Software.

550 W. 120th St., Northwest Corner 1401, New York, NY 10027    212-854-5660
©2018 Columbia University