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Featured Researcher: Ben Beck

Posted on June 29, 2021

Meet our new Featured Researcher, Ben Beck, a graduate student at the Smeal College of Business. With 10 years in the industry behind him, Ben recognized that businesses were missing an opportunity to use the power of supercomputers to improve their long-term marketing efforts. Ben is leveraging Penn State’s Roar supercomputer to through the large amounts of data available to marketers to answer the many unexplored questions in marketing.


How did you get into this research field? 

After 10 years of working in industry, I realized I wanted to answer some questions more deeply and truly contribute to continued improvement in marketing. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?  

Business marketing can, at times, lack a long-term focus for all stakeholders. I hope my research will help businesses identify ways to be better long-term-centric contributors to their own spheres of influence. 

How does supercomputing enable your research? 

There is a lot of data available to marketers, and they often don’t know what to do with it. With the super computing capacity at Penn State’s ICDS I am able to leverage this big data to answer questions marketers aren’t currently exploring. With one research project some of the data analysis was taking MATLAB 28 days to complete on my local machine but with the super computer I’ve gotten that down to around 36 hours. 

What’s the elevator pitch for your research? 

Marketers have a lot of data, but it is difficult to synthesize it all. Thus, they rely on faulty heuristics in decision making. My research enables the marketer to use large aggregate-level data sets to make better informed decisions. 

What types of interdisciplinary collaborations would you like to build in the future?  

Some of my ideal research would include collaborations between business and marketing scholars, and those within the health fields. Health is such an important aspect to a person’s wellbeing, and sadly often takes the back seat to other endeavors. As I progress on my scholarly journey I hope to help health-focused scholars make a bigger impact in the world by leveraging marketing principles and theories. 

What’s your favorite sound? 

The sounds of the wind. I often take a book (or tablet) to my backyard and hang in the hammock as I read. The sounds of the wind are extremely relaxing and help me forget about the hectic pace of life. 

If you were a computer part, what part would you be, and why?  

If I could be a computer part I’d choose to be a GPU. While the age old data science questions seem to be more reliant on the CPU and RAM, the more creative and up-and-coming questions seem to rely more on the GPU. I love pushing the boundaries in science, and I consider myself a creative thinker, thus I’d like to push boundaries in graphics based reasoning. 

What’s your advice for would-be scientists? 

Think outside the box, have fun, and pursue your passions. Don’t limit conference attendance to academic conferences. Pursue research that you are passionate about and that you can have fun with (even after you’ve spent 1,000 hours on the same incremental contribution). 

Favorite hobbies/pastimes that have nothing to do with your professional work? 

It seems like these days most people claim “anything outdoors” as some of their focal hobbies. I’m also a big outdoor buff (kayaking, peak bagging, camping, snorkeling to name a few), but in an effort to not sound like everyone else, here are some of my quirkier hobbies: dodgeball, experimenting in the kitchen (i.e. broccoli cookies), collecting vintage magazines, and stop-gap animation with my two sons.  

What is something that people are surprised to discover about you? 

People are often surprised by my religious beliefs. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — often referred to as Mormons — and people often have heard wacky stories about what we believe. While some of those wacky ideas are loosely based on truths, most are wild contortions. Some of our core beliefs are in loving others, building up society, and overcoming differences. Not all that different from other religions. I really focus my own life in seeing similarities between people and not focusing on the differences. 


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