Dr. Acuna studied a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. During his graduate studies, he was part of the Center for Cognitive Sciences in the Department of Psychology and received a NIH Neuro-physical-computational Sciences (NPCS) Graduate Training Fellowship from the Department of Neuroscience. He additionally received the support of a CONICYT-World Bank fellowship and a travel award from the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) 2008 conference. During his postdoctoral studies at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University, Dr. Acuna gave multiple invited plenary talks and was interviewed by Nature Podcast, The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR Science Friday, and The Scientist. Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure have generously supported his big data analytics work with three academic computational credit awards.


Since his Bachelor studies in Computer Science at the University of Santiago, Chile, Dr. Acuna has had a long interest in understanding human decision making and mimicking human semi-optimal strategies with algorithms. His long-term goal is to teach computers to learn from humans and enhance human decision making through the use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University, Dr. Acuna studied machine learning, statistical decision theory, and the neural basis of learning.

The goal of his current research is to understand decision making in Science—from helping hiring committees to predict future academic success to removing the potential biases that scientists and funding agencies commit during peer review. To achieve these tasks, Dr. Acuna harnesses vast datasets about scientific activities and applies Machine Learning and A.I. to uncover rules that make publication, collaboration, and funding decisions more successful. Simultaneously, he has created tools to improve literature search http://pubmed.scholarfy.net, peer review http://pr.scienceofscience.org, and modeling of scientific expertise http://map.scienceofscience.org. Dr. Acuna imagines a future in which humans and A.I. agents seamlessly cooperate to make science more agile and accurate.

Daniel enjoys making contributions to the open source Data Science community, often creating his own packages and tools https://github.com/daniel-acuna. For example, he recently gave a talk to the Chicago Python User Group, where he shared his views with over 80 professional developers on how science and industry face similar challenges. He is also looking to license multiple technologies co-invented by him.

Selected publications

  • Ramkumar P, Acuna DE, Berniker M, Grafton S, Turner RS, Körding KP. (2016) Chunking as the result of an efficiency–computation tradeoff. Nature Communication
  • Acuna, DE, Berniker, M, Fernandes, H, Kording, K, (2015) Using psychophysics to ask if the brain samples or maximizes, Journal of Vision
  • Acuna, DE, Penner, Orion, Orton CG, (2013) The future h-index is an excellent way to predict scientists’ future impact, Med. Phys
  • Acuna, DE, Allesina, S., Kording, KP, (2012) Future impact: Predicting scientific success, Nature


I teach courses in the area of data science at the iSchool. Currently, I teach IST 718: Advanced Information Analytics. This course goes through several use cases of real world data science analysis using state of the art machine learning such as Random Forest and Deep Learning. The course is also focused on tools for dealing with big data. We use Python, Hadoop 2.0, and Apache Spark.