Carnegie Mellon, PSC Part of NSF’s “Big Data Brain Trust”-CMU News - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, November 2, 2015

Carnegie Mellon, PSC Part of NSF’s “Big Data Brain Trust”

Researchers Will Confront Challenges of Big Data as Members of Northeast Data Innovation Hub

By Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /
and Jocelyn Duffy / 412-268-9982 /
Big Data

Today, the National Science Foundation announced the funding of four regional Big Data Innovations Hubs. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College, Mellon College of Science, School of Computer Science and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint effort between CMU and the University of Pittsburgh, are part of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, led by Columbia University.

Howard Wactlar, research professor of computer science and member of the Northeast Hub's Executive Steering Committee, said the hubs will promote access for academic researchers to large datasets compiled by companies and governments, which in turn will lead to the development of analytical tools that can be used to probe data and make new discoveries. This is an area that CMU already pursues aggressively through the Metro21 and Traffic21 initiatives and recent projects with UPMC and Boeing to explore health care and aeronautical data, respectively, he noted.

The Northeast Hub consists of researchers from 40 universities and partners from industry, government and nonprofit sectors based in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the six New England states. Representatives will come together to discuss how big data can be best used to address pressing problems in the region.

Cheryl Begandy, director of Education, Outreach and Training at PSC, will serve on the hub's Advisory Steering Committee. She also will serve with J. Ray Scott, director of Systems and Operations at the PSC, on the hub's Data Sharing Connector Team, which will study platforms and formats for regional data sharing, including software to allow researchers to annotate and publish their own data. The PSC also intends to play a significant role in enabling efficient storage and analysis of the hub's large public data.

Rick Stafford, director of CMU’s Metro21 Initiative and Distinguished Service Professor in the Heinz College, will participate in the hub’s Cities and Regions spoke. This group, led by New York University, will work to develop a better understanding of the science of cities, and how the application of big-data analytics and informatics can generate operational efficiencies and improve quality of life for residents of urban centers. Metro21 is a multidisciplinary research and educational initiative at Carnegie Mellon working in partnership with the City of Pittsburgh since July of 2014 to research, develop and deploy data-driven tools that provide tangible solutions to challenges affecting the economy and quality of life in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Mike Widom, professor of physics, will be working with a group led by the State University of New York, Buffalo, that will explore how data analytics can be used to manage the massive amounts of data related to our energy supply and delivery systems. Widom, a theoretical physicist whose work focuses on materials, is interested in unifying existing, diverse data sets that will help researchers to better understand what materials are most useful for energy production and storage.

In addition to his role on the Executive Steering Committee, Wactlar will participate in the Health and the Discovery Science research spoke.