The Academic­­Influence.com Team

Our Core Team

Jed Macosko, PhD

President and Academic Director

Hailing from Minneapolis, Jed has lived in Minsk, Princeton, Tashkent, Chicago, Copenhagen, Albuquerque, and Strasbourg. He graduated with a BS from MIT and earned his PhD at UC Berkeley. After a postdoc with Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Carlos J. Bustamante, he worked with Nobel laureate Kary Mullis at a start-up in Irvine, California. Currently, Jed is a professor of physics at Wake Forest University. He continues his two decades of research on the mechanics of cells and molecular motors while teaching undergraduates the basics of big data and virtual reality. His lab has received millions of dollars in outside funding, and he is a contributing author of several books. His work has been cited thousands of times, and his patents have been developed in the biotech sector. One of his most fulfilling intellectual projects so far has been with the team at AcademicInfluence.com.

Wayne J. Downs

CEO

Disillusioned with the subjectivism and bias in online degree rankings, Wayne became intrigued with AcademicInfluence.com’s revolutionary machine-learning approach to ranking schools and people by influence. Having spent nearly ten years studying and directing content about higher education for some of the largest online education websites in the world, Wayne saw in AcademicInfluence.com a way to do rankings right, helping people make better decisions about their education and thereby advancing their lives. A native of Kentucky, Wayne obtained his BS in biblical studies with a minor in psychology at Campbellsville University, an MDiv at Baylor University, an MA in philosophy at Texas A&M, and thereafter completing PhD coursework in philosophy at the University of Kentucky, focusing on the cognitive sciences and metaethics. He muses that because of the mistakes he made cramming his 4-year degree into 6 years, he is able to help others avoid similar mistakes. Wayne is passionate about higher education, and sees in AcademicInfluence.com the key to bringing integrity to academic rankings.

James A. Barham, PhD

Academic Editor

James is a Texas-born historian and philosopher of science. He received his BA in classics from the University of Texas at Austin, his MA in history of science from Harvard University, and his PhD in history and philosophy of science from the University of Notre Dame. While at Harvard, he was a Sheldon Traveling Fellow at the University of Athens and a Visiting Fellow at the Byzantine Institute of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Belgrade. Barham conducts research on the conceptual foundations of biology. He has published papers in a number of scholarly journals, including BioSystems, Rivista di Biologia, and Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Winston Ewert, PhD

AI / Machine Learning Expert and Software Engineer

Winston is a software engineer. He received his BS in Computer Science from Trinity Western University, his Master’s degree in Computer Science from Baylor University, and his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Baylor University. His specializes in computer simulations of evolution, specified complexity, information theory, and the common design of genomes. Ewert worked for Google for two years after earning his doctorate as a software engineer and was deemed the most productive programmer in his team. Winston left Google’s Mountain View, California, campus and returned to Vancouver to work independently as a software engineer and programming consultant.

Robert J. Marks II, PhD

AI / Machine Learning Expert

Bob is distinguished professor of engineering in the Department of Engineering at Baylor University. He was attracted to Baylor University after twenty-six years at the University of Washington in Seattle by Baylor’s vision of being the home of cutting-edge research while celebrating the Lordship of Christ. Marks is an American electrical engineer. His contributions include the Zhao-Atlas-Marks (ZAM) time-frequency distribution in the field of signal processing, the Cheung-Marks theorem in Shannon sampling theory, and the Papoulis-Marks-Cheung (PMC) approach in multidimensional sampling. He was instrumental in the defining of the field of computational intelligence and co-edited the first book using computational intelligence in the title.

Dave Tomar

Managing Editor

Dave Tomar is an expert on plagiarism and contract cheating in higher education. Author of The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat (Bloomsbury, 2012), Tomar worked for a decade as an academic ghostwriter before bringing widespread attention to this thriving cheating industry that undermines higher education. This book arose out of an earlier 2010 article that he authored titled ”The Shadow Scholar.” Under the pen name ”Ed Dante,” “The Shadow Scholar” became the most widely read article in the history of The Chronicle of Higher Education and received special citation from the Education Writers Association. In this article and the subsequent book, Tomar detailed his work as an academic ghostwriter and exposed the need for significant reform in higher education to combat this form of contract cheating. Tomar has written for Huffington Post and The New York Times; has appeared on ABC World News, Nightline, Fox Business, and The Today Show; and has advised leading plagiarism detection companies including turnitin.com. Today, Tomar consults on various issues in higher education, and serves as Managing Editor for Academic Influence as well as its opinion, editorial, and news analysis journal, Inflection.

Dan Edelen

Director of Strategic Planning

Home-based in the idyllic countryside of southwestern Ohio, Dan works sandwiched between Amish communities and Cincinnati. A summa cum laude Christian Education graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, his professional career spans technical marketing (Apple, Inc.), instructional design (Luxottica), computer network administration (at NASA Ames Research Center and P&G), knowledge management (Synchrony Communications), and business and academic writing/editing. Interests include board games, birding, and writing speculative fiction. Dan resides on a 13-acre organic fruit farm with his wife and college student son.

Academic Advisory Board

Sara L. Austin, EdD

Writer/Researcher

Sara Austin is a writer, instructional designer, and academic researcher. She earned a BS in Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of Maine at Machias, an MEd in Instructional Technology from the University of Maine, and an EdD in Educational Leadership from the University of New England. A California native, she now lives with her husband in Maine in a home they built together by “Googling it”. Her research specialties include cognitive biases, social and emotional learning, data-resistant belief systems, and cultural competence. She believes in the power of education to open minds and break down the barriers that divide people.

Erik Larson, PhD

Writer/Researcher & AI/Machine Learning Consultant

Erik Larson is a computer scientist, entrepreneur, and technologist with over a decade of experience in software development and R&D in the computational sciences. As an entrepreneur, he is founder and co-founder of two DARPA-funded technology companies. Larson’s projects focus on the design and development of software systems that provide effective solutions to real-world problems. As a scientist, his interests lie in hybrid systems that utilize knowledge representation and reasoning (KR&R), together with modern data-centered and machine learning approaches. His career has spanned both classic and empirical AI, with a particular focus on text analytics (information extraction and natural language processing). As a professional writer, Larson’s works have appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, with his latest book from Harvard University Press released in April 2021, The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do. (See our page with additional insights from Larson about the book, along with our interviews with him.) After receiving his Bachelor’s in philosophy and mathematics at Whitworth College, Larson completed his MA and PhD at The University of Texas at Austin, his dissertation was Primary Semantic Type Labeling on Monologue Discourse Using a Hierarchical Classification Approach.

David Nguyen, PhD

College Admission Expert

David H. Nguyen, PhD, is founder of Next Level Prep, which offers online software courses and online academic coaching. Since 2015, he has been an education consultant for college admissions and teaches bioinformatics workshops for high school students, intensive Computational Biology Workshops. In his education consulting work, he has helped thousands of students get into the top 40 universities in America. His clients range from academic superstars to those with autism. He does free consulting for low-income families in the USA. He obtained both his BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology and his PhD in Endocrinology from University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Nguyen’s Articles:

Neil Chyten

College Admissions Counselor and Test Prep Expert

Neil Chyten is nationally renowned education icon and Founder of NC Global Education, Inc.. A 37-year year industry professional, he is the founder of several successful education-related companies and has written or co-written 12 books on test preparation, college admissions, and academic skills.

In addition to his many publications, Neil Chyten has overseen the development of ESTEEM (English, Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurialism and Math) project-based programs (Grades 2-8), New Generation (Grades 3-8), GPA Booster (Grades 9-10), SAT, ACT, ISEE, and SSAT Test Prep, college and private school admission program, RANDD Reading and Study Skills program, and partnerships with several local school systems. He has been a featured or guest speaker at more than 200 events ranging from parent information sessions and college fairs to young Harvard Graduate School Future Entrepreneurs.

Neil Chyten has been cited or featured as an expert education-industry source by the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, Education Weekly, and elsewhere.

As a college counselor and tutor, Neil Chyten has worked with over 1000 students, most of whom have gone on to prestigious private school and colleges, and rewarding careers. Over his extensive career, he has trained more than 400 tutors and counselors who have helped more than 50,000 students earn higher test scores and college acceptances. Thousands of these students have earned perfect test scores, more than 1,500 have matriculated to Ivy League colleges and universities, and thousands more have gone on to attend all the top private schools, colleges and graduate schools in America. Neil has also personally worked with the sons and daughters of more than 100, professors, deans, and college admission directors from MIT, Harvard, Boston College, and many other schools.

Patrick O’Connor, PhD

College Admission Expert

Patrick J. O’Connor, PhD, works with us as a college admissions expert and learning improvement specialist. O’Connor is associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School in metropolitan Detroit. A former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Michigan ACAC, Patrick also teaches Counseling in the College Selection Process as both a graduate class and a professional development program. In 2017–18, he served as the inaugural School Counselor Ambassador Fellow with the US Department of Education, keeping the department informed of current trends and issues of interest to school counselors.

To Contact Us

To connect with our team, please visit our Contact Us page.