UAB Big Data Research and Analytics Lab to help in developing NSF Big Data regional system

Engineers, physicians, computer scientists and statisticians will collaborate to research and apply big data in the health care, industrial and smart cities fields.

big data hub 2The lab is a joint initiative of the School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine, and UAB IT Research Computing.The Big Data Research and Analytics Lab in the UAB School of Engineering, along with UAB Information Technology Research Computing and the School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology, will be part of a national effort to develop a Big Data Regional Innovation Hub serving 16 Southern states and the District of Columbia.

The South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub, or South BD Hub — to be managed jointly by Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina — is part of the National Science Foundation’s four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs announced today. The new initiative aims to build innovative public-private partnerships that address regional challenges through big data analysis.

“The award of the South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub to Georgia Tech and UNC-Chapel Hill provides the right context for collaboration among 116 stakeholders in academia, industry and the nonprofit sectors, which will enable us to — for the first time — address large-scale challenges facing many Southern states,” said Srinivas Aluru, co-principal investigator and professor in the School of Computational Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Each of the NSF BD Hubs will engage businesses and research organizations in their region to develop common big data goals that would be impossible for individual members to achieve alone. The hubs will develop community-driven governance structures as well as “spoke projects” based on regional priorities and partnerships.

“Big data analysis is changing the way we see the world and is one of the more profound developments in science that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” said Iwan Alexander, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Engineering. “At UAB, we are uniquely positioned because of the wide range of expertise here in areas from engineering to medicine to business. Our Big Data Research and Analytics Lab has the potential to touch every part of campus, and as such, it can provide valuable input to this national network.”

In particular, UAB’s contributions to the South BD Hub are expected to be concentrated around the issues of health care, industrial big data and smart cities. UAB’s effort is being led by Thomas Anthony, director of the Big Data Research and Analytics Lab.

The lab is a joint initiative of the School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine, and UAB IT Research Computing. The lab has been set up to bring together engineers, physicians, computer scientists and statisticians to develop novel ways to manage, analyze and visualize very large data sets.

big data hub 3UAB’s contributions to the South BD hub are expected to be concentrated around the issues of health care, industrial big data and smart cities.

In addition to serving as a facility to process data generated at UAB and gathered through research of publicly available datasets, the lab is also working on emerging technologies and approaches to big data analytics that would be applicable to a large number of fields, which demonstrates the potential for big data to make a big impact on 21st century life.

“The important problems of our time — from solving disparities in health care to understanding the risks of coastal storms and floods — involve making sense of massive amounts of data,” said Ashok Krishnamurthy, deputy director at RENCI and co-PI with Aluru on the South BD Hub project. “The chance to lead this project with Georgia Tech means we will be at the forefront of using data for the public good.”

The South BD Hub will serve Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. It will be developed in three phases — an initial bootstrap phase that will establish the basic governance structure, a transitional phase that will move toward an operational structure and a final operational phase.

Initial spokes of the South BD Hub will aim to apply big data analysis to scientific and social issues in five areas:

  • Health Care, including disparities in health, access to health care, health outcomes, precision medicine and health analytics.
  • Coastal Hazards, including understanding and mitigating the consequences of natural and manmade disasters.
  • Industrial Big Data, including cyberphysical systems, the Internet of Things, data-driven management of physical infrastructure, and power generation, transmission and distribution from a variety of sources.
  • Materials and Manufacturing, including data-driven contributions to the materials genome initiative and bridging the gap between materials science and manufacturing practice.
  • Habitat Planning, including urban infrastructure, smart cities efforts, transportation, rural-urban infrastructure, and wildlife habitat and conservation.

Initial NSF funding for the South BD Hub will be $1.5 million over three years. In addition to the South BD Hub, the NSF has funded Hubs in the Northeast, Midwest and Western U.S., which are managed by universities in those regions.

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