Big Data Institute seeks to facilitate education, research
Initiative will "transform" the University, Rick Horowitz says
The University’s office of the Vice President for Research announced a new big data initiative, the Big Data Institute, at the Board of Visitors retreat earlier this month. The Institute will aim to facilitate cross-Grounds research and education to push the University into the national big data spotlight.
Big data can be characterized as any data set so large that storing, analyzing and visualizing become extremely difficult or impossible given constraints institutions face. Public and private organizations across the globe struggle with big data, putting methodology and technology to handle it in high demand.
The Institute will exist virtually but will utilize the facilities and faculty of the University’s many schools, Vice President for Research Tom Skalak said.
“We’re a comprehensive university, but have the advantage of having all our schools so close together,” Skalak said. “For example, Medicine could interact with Statistics and Law on questions about genomic diseases to then analyze the policy and ethical implications the research may have. We think the U.Va. effort will distinguish ourselves and make an impact based on those collaborative efforts.”
Associate Vice President for Research Rick Horwitz, the leader of the Institute, said that the initiative is “very broad in interest and scope,” involving about 150 faculty members representing more than 30 departments at the University.
Big-data research and education are cornerstones of University President Teresa Sullivan’s strategic-planning effort, which aims to develop a set of goals and ideas to steer the University in the foreseeable future. The Institute will serve as a vehicle to make some of these goals a reality.
Though the Institute will work partially on research initiatives, it will also sponsor education opportunities around the University. Skalak described the relationship between education and research as “seamlessly integrated,” noting that students involved in big data coursework would likely also be involved in research opportunities.
“Staff will develop courses in undergraduate, graduate and professional schools,” he said. “Those curricular offerings will be offered by faculty across schools… A minor or certificate in big data is certainly being considered.”
Skalak said he hopes to see future Institute research projects funded by organizations such as the National Institute for Health, the Department of Defense, IBM and Lockheed Martin.