I'm Derek Onken, a PhD Candidate in the Computer Science and Informatics Program at Emory University. I focus on data-intensive problems predominantly in the overlap of mathematics and computer science. Ultimately, I enjoy applying the theory to develop solutions for practical problems.

(Such approaches include the following buzzwords: machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, big data, statistical analysis, GPUs, numerical optimization, continuous normalizing flows, optimal control)



  • Doctor of Philosophy - Emory University (2016-Present)
    Computer Science & Informatics track

  • Master of Science - Emory University (2019)
    Computer Science

  • Bachelor of Science - University of Georgia (2015)
    Majors: Mathematics and Computer Science
    Minors: Physics and Classical Culture



PDE-based Machine Learning with Lars Ruthotto . (2018 - present)
Applying knowledge of optimizers and partial differential equation solvers to machine learning architectures (also known as neural differential equations). More specifically, we explore higher-order schemes, applications of optimal control, and the Discretize-Optimize approach . We also are interested in developing methods for lowering computational cost of continuous normalizing flows and tractably solving high-dimensional optimal control problems.

Parkinson's Disease Telemonitoring and Voice Analysis via Mobile App with Eugene Agichtein as part of his IRLAB. (2017)
Collecting and analyzing voice data, touch pressure, and rest tremor to detect Parkinson's disease symptoms via remote patient monitoring. Building machine learning classifier using motor and vocal features extracted from these patients.

Using CDR data from H1N1 outbreak to predict future disease outbreaks with Ymir Vigfusson (2016-2019)
Our dataset contians cellphone data from the H1N1 outbreak in 2009-2010 and linked health data. We develop a classifier to determine/predict sickness based on human behavior changes around Date of Diagnosis. Motivation: give health officials a more real-time and accurate estimation of sick individuals as an outbreak is occuring.

Lunar study with Juan B. Gutierrez in UGA's Biomathematics Research Group. (2014-2016)
Analysis of 56 million natality records and sex ratio correlations.

Comparison of Parallelization Methods with Juan B. Gutierrez in UGA's Biomathematics Research Group. (2014)
Exploration of MPI, CUDA, and OpenCL. Application of MPI to Geneset Enrichment Analysis (GSEA).


D Onken, L Nurbekyan, X Li, S Wu Fung, S Osher, L Ruthotto. A Neural Network Approach Applied to Multi-Agent Optimal Control. European Control Conference 2021 [Accepted].
paper   videos
D Onken, S Wu Fung, X Li, L Ruthotto. OT-Flow: Fast and Accurate Continuous Normalizing Flows via Optimal Transport. AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence 2021.
paper   code  
Y Vigfusson*, T Karlsson*, D Onken*, et al. Cellphone Traces Reveal Infection-Associated Behavioral Change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2021.   * denotes co-first author
paper   code  
D Onken and L Ruthotto. Discretize-Optimize vs. Optimize-Discretize for Time-Series Regression and Continuous Normalizing Flows. arXiv 2020.
paper   code   videos



Virtual Informal Systems Seminar (VISS) at Centre for Intelligent Machines (CIM) at McGill and the Groupe d'├ętudes et de Recherche en Analyse des D├ęcisions (GERAD), Feb 2021, link   slides
    Thanks to Peter E. Caines, Aditya Mahajan, Shuang Gao, Rinel Foguen Tchuendom, and Yaroslav Salii for the invitation.
AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Feb 2021, talk   poster
    Thanks to the AAAI organizers for the opportunity.
SIAM Annual Meeting, Jul 2020, poster
    Thanks to the SIAM AN20 organizers for the opportunity.
SIAM Mathematics of Data Science, Jun 2020, slides
    Thanks to Harbir Antil, Thomas Brown, and Ratna Khatri for the invitation.
Deep Learning in Medical Applications Workshop at Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM), Jan 2020, poster
    Thanks to the IPAM organizers for the opportunity.
Emory Scientific Computing Seminar, Apr 2019, slides
Georgia Scientific Computing Symposium, Feb 2019, poster
Amazon Graduate Research Symposium, Oct 2017, poster


Work Experience

Summer 2020:   Graduate Data Science Intern for United Health Group
Summer 2019:   Graduate Data Science Intern for United Health Group
Summer 2018:   High Performance Computing Intern for Air Force Research Labs
Spring 2018:     TA for Dr. Li Xiong's Data Mining (CS378)
Fall 2017:       Lab Instructor for Dr. Lars Ruthotto's Numerical Analysis (MATH315)
Spring 2017:     TA for Dr. Michele Benzi's Numerical Analysis (MATH315)
Fall 2016:       TA for Dr. Davide Fossati's Intro to Java (CS170)

Promotional video from United Health Group (Summer 2019)


Contact Me


400 Dowman Drive
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322

donken [at] emory [dot] edu


This is my CV.
Here are some Fun Links.

HOW-TO Guides for Emory CS Graduate Students
Set-up Emory Webpage (November 2019 Emory SIAM Event)
Apply for PhD Candidacy and Interim Degree