Finley Golightly

IT Support & Helpdesk Supervisor
Applied Mathematics

Finley joined D-Lab as full-time staff launching their career in Data Science after graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Applied Math from UC Berkeley.

They have been with D-Lab since Fall 2020, formerly as part of the UTech Management team before joining as full-time staff in Fall 2023. They love the learning environment of D-Lab and their favorite part of the job is their co-workers! In their free time, they enjoy reading, boxing, listening to music, and playing Dungeons & Dragons. Feel free to stop by the front desk to ask them any questions or...

Introduction to Propensity Score Matching with MatchIt

April 1, 2024
by Alex Ramiller. When working with observational (i.e. non-experimental) data, it is often challenging to establish the existence of causal relationships between interventions and outcomes. Propensity Score Matching (PSM) provides a powerful tool for causal inference with observational data, enabling the creation of comparable groups that allow us to directly measure the impact of an intervention. This blog post introduces MatchIt – a software package that provides all of the necessary tools for conducting Propensity Score Matching in R – and provides step-by-step instructions on how to conduct and evaluate matches.

Computational Social Science in a Social World: Challenges and Opportunities

March 26, 2024
by José Aveldanes. The rise of AI, Machine Learning, and Data Science are harbingers of the need for a significant shift in social science research. Computational Social Science enables us to go beyond traditional methods such as Ordinary Least Squares, which face challenges in addressing complexities of social phenomena, particularly in modeling nonlinear relationships and managing high-dimensionality data. This paradigmatic shift requires that we embrace these new tools to understand social life and necessitates understanding methodological and ethical challenges, including bias and representation. The integration of these technologies into social science research calls for a collaborative approach among social scientists, technologists, and policymakers to navigate the associated risk and possibilities of these new tools.

Design Your Observational Study with the Joint Variable Importance Plot

March 12, 2024
by Lauren Liao. When evaluating causal inference in observational studies, there often is a natural imbalance in the data. Luckily, variables are often measured alongside that can be helpful for adjustment. However, deciding which variables should be prioritized for adjustment is not trivial – since not all variables are equally important to the intervention or the outcome. I recommend using the joint variable importance plot during the observational study design phase to visualize which variables should be prioritized. This post provides a gentle guide on how to do so and why it is important.

A Basic Introduction to Hierarchical Linear Modeling

March 4, 2024
by Mingfeng Xue. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) is an extension of linear models, which offers an approach to analyzing data structures with nested levels. This blog elucidates HLM's significance over traditional linear regression models, particularly in handling clustered data and multilevel predictors. Illustrated with an example from educational research, the blog demonstrates model implementation and interpretation steps. It showcases how HLM accommodates both independent variables from different levels and hierarchical structure data, providing insights into their impacts on the outcome variable. Recommended resources further aid readers in mastering HLM techniques.

Creating the Ultimate Sweet

January 30, 2024
by Emma Turtelboom. What is the best Halloween candy? In this blog post, we will identify attributes of popular sweets and create a model to understand how these attributes influence the popularity of the sweet. We’ll discuss alternative model approaches and potential drawbacks, as well as caveats to interpreting the predictions of our model.

Tracking Urban Expansion Through Satellite Imagery

December 12, 2023
by Leïla Njee Bugha. Among its many uses, remote sensing can prove especially useful to document changes and trends from eras or settings, where traditional sources are either inexistent or infrequently collected. This is the case when one wants to study urban expansion in sub-Saharan countries over the past 20 years. To further remedy the lack of data on land cover uses from earlier time periods, classification methods can be used as well. Using easily accessible satellite imagery from Google Earth Engine, I provide here an example combining remote sensing with classification to detect changes in the land cover in Nigeria since 2000 due to urban expansion.

From Asking Causal Questions to Making Causal Inference

December 5, 2023
by Lauren Liao. What is causality and how do we ask causal questions? It may seem like a difficult and foreign concept, but fear not, I will guide you through the basic concepts in this blog post. We will start from how to ask causal questions then more formally address how to answer these questions. You may find causality more approachable than you think. It follows the same ideas as presented by the scientific method of rigorously testing how interventions produce different outcomes in a controlled environment.

Exploratory Data Analysis in Social Science Research

November 14, 2023
by Kamya Yadav. Causal inference has become the dominant endeavor for many political scientists, often at the expense of good research questions and theory building. Returning to descriptive inference – the process of describing the world as it exists – can help formulate research questions worth asking and theory that is grounded in reality. Exploratory data analysis is one method of conducting descriptive inference. It can help social science researchers find empirical patterns and puzzles that motivate their research questions, test correlations between variables, and engage with the existing literature on a topic. In this blog post, I walk through results from exploratory data analysis I conducted for my dissertation project on political ambition of women.

Using Forest Plots to Report Regression Estimates: A Useful Data Visualization Technique

October 17, 2023
by Sharon Green. Regression models help us understand relationships between two or more variables. In many cases, results are summarized in tables that present coefficients, standard errors, and p-values. Reading these can be a slog. Figures such as forest plots can help us communicate results more effectively and may lead to a better understanding of the data. This blog post is a tutorial on two different approaches to creating high-quality and reproducible forest plots, one using ggplot2 and one using the forestplot package.