United Nations internship opens a world of opportunities

Student Spotlight
Chris Blumberg, sixth-year information technology

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Brian Tomaszewski

Chris Blumberg, sixth-year information technology student at RIT, works with the U.N. on HunchWorks, a social network that aids idea sharing to help vulnerable communities in the world.

Chris Blumberg is helping to make big changes in how the United Nations works with disaster management.

Question: Where are you from?
Answer: San Antonio, Texas.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: RIT was the best school for my degree and I wanted to experience a real winter. It hasn’t snowed in San Antonio in 25 years. We can typically barbecue on Christmas Day.

Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
A: I went skydiving with some co-workers from my first internship.

Q: What is something that most people wouldn’t know about you when they first meet you?
A: That I’m from Texas, because I have no Southern accent.

Q: What types of things do you do around campus?
A: I played intramural volleyball for four years and ultimate Frisbee for two.

Q: Where within the U.N. do you work for your co-op?
A: I work with the U.N. Global Pulse team, which has been put together to focus on helping vulnerable communities in the world. Global Pulse uses the combination of data mining, behavior analysis and cause-effect relationships to see how an event has an effect on populations. Once we have data, we figure out how to use it to help these communities. The main project I work with is developing code for HunchWorks.

Q: What is HunchWorks?
A: HunchWorks is a program that will allow people to post a hunch (hypothesis) about something they think is going on in the world. Users will then be able to post evidence such as pictures, videos and data-sheets to back-up or refute the hunch. The hunch is voted on, giving it relevance based on whether it is strongly supported or refuted. The system is a social network that pushes ideas up to the decision makers.

Q: What are the goals of HunchWorks?
A: It will reduce the timeframe it takes for workers, organizations and governments to communicate and react to an event.

Q: What are your responsibilities with the project?
A: I designed and built the database, the webpage and back-end application.

Q: Do you like being in New York City?
A: I live in Queens, N.Y., now and it is a 45-minute commute. I definitely like living in the city because there is so much to do and see.

Q: What would be your ideal situation after you graduate?
A: I will be signing a contract to work with the U.N. full-time. I wouldn’t mind staying in the city for a little while, but I would like to go back to Texas eventually, because it’s more relaxing. Still, I wouldn’t mind traveling with the U.N. to visit cities around the world.

Q: Any advice you would give to other RIT students?
A: The friends you make in school will help you in your real world careers. I had friends help me with issues I had at HunchWorks. The connections you make will last a lifetime.

Scott Bureau covers student affairs for University News. Contact him at sbbcom@rit.edu with “Student Spotlight” suggestions.