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From left, Victor Odouard ’21, Jeffrey Liu ‘19, Samantha Taylor ’22 and Jamal Hashim ’22 have created an algorithm to help Cornell students find their “perfect match.”

Students hope algorithm leads to Valentine’s Day matches

A group of Cornell undergraduates is hoping to help fellow students find their special someone – just in time for Valentine’s Day.

They’re using an algorithm they’ve created and survey data from students about their Cornell-specific likes and dislikes, as well as personality characteristics. As of 7 p.m. Feb. 11, more than 3,900 students had filled out the questionnaire; they will receive an email with their perfect matches on Feb. 12.

“We wanted to do something that would be a service to our fellow students,” said Jeff Liu ’20, a government and computer science major in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of Cornell Business Analytics, which organized the survey. 

Some Cornell questions include:

  • What is your favorite place to eat on campus?
  • What do you do on Friday nights?
  • What’s your favorite first date spot at Cornell?

“As Cornell students, we’re so busy that by the time we get our work done and spend time with our friends, we don’t have much time to look for a relationship,” said Shashank Vura ’19, who filled out the survey. “And it’s hard to ascertain at your first meeting whether this is someone you will get along with or have things in common with.”

Before creating the algorithm, team members did background research and surveyed 100 happy couples to find what characteristics seemed significant and which combinations of traits resulted in more “perfect matches.” Being too similar to a potential mate is not always a good thing, Liu said.

Victor Odouard ’21, a College Scholar studying math and social sciences, said team members worked hard to refine their questions, devise a method for scoring pairs based on compatibility and decide how to make pairings based on these scores.

“We wrote code to match people automatically and then have an automated email sender, so we never see people’s names or Net IDs,” Liu said. The deadline for filling out the survey is Feb. 11 and participants will receive emails Feb. 12 with the names and Net IDs of their perfect matches.

“One match for everyone is a little limiting, and sometimes your No. 1 match doesn’t work out,” Liu said. “For instance, one of my friends said she did something similar in high school and got matched with her brother, so we’re trying to avoid that.”

After the emails are sent, the Perfect Match folks will be pretty much out of the picture, although they have planned a Valentine’s Day bowling event at Helen Newman for anyone who took part and wants a non-threatening way to meet with a match.

“I’m absolutely floored (at the response), completely in awe,” Odouard said. “I’m trying to put together everything that we did in my mind so I can try to replicate this in future projects.”

A month or so down the road, the student team wants to reach out to the pairs to find out how well the matching worked so they can tweak the algorithm next year.

Vura – who says the highlight of his Valentine’s Day is sometimes the box of dark chocolates he gets from his mom – doesn’t think Perfect Match will change his life, but “if nothing else, it’s a great chance to make a friend or meet someone you might not meet otherwise,” he said.

Cornell Business Analytics formed in 2017 and is made up of students with majors ranging from engineering to computer science to business. The organization helps companies and nonprofits big and small tackle projects requiring data analysis.

Students can still sign up for the survey.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Jeff Tyson