Data Science News and Announcements



August 4, 2017

Student Interns Translate Data into Action for Atlanta

Data Science for Social Good Concludes its 2017 Program with Student Showcase

Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) students and mentors concluded another year of solving problems for the City of Atlanta and beyond. The annual student showcase took place July 24th at Ponce City Market, with nearly 75 people in attendance including data scientists, local companies, nonprofits, agencies and organizations.

“This fourth summer of the program has been a huge success,” said Ellen Zegura, a professor in the College of Computing, and the one who began Atlanta’s DSSG program. She kicked off the final event, which shared innovative data-driven approaches and results for five projects in the areas of housing justice, food security, crowdsourced environmental monitoring, flood prediction, and building energy consumption. Video interviews of participants and an image gallery of the event are available.

The Atlanta Data Science for Social Good program is an intensive, ten-week paid internship experience that blends data science and technology design. Students are placed on multi-disciplinary teams and matched with a supervising professor to address real-world problems with partners in the City of Atlanta and local non-profit organizations. DSSG student teams blend expertise on technical topics, public policy, social issues, and education for a truly interdisciplinary approach. Bistra Dilkina, a DSSG co-director said “DSSG connects the classroom with real problems of deep community relevance. We hope this will inspire them to pursue their technical education further, and to be engaged global citizens that use their education for societal impact.”

The program addresses several emerging concerns simultaneously: finding innovative solutions that serve immediate needs, getting the experience necessary for developing the nation’s data science workforce, and helping students communicate effectively by working with actual clients and team members. “It is a unique opportunity to make a real impact in the Atlanta Community. Students get the ability to understand how to communicate data problems with organizations that are not coming at this with a high level of technical background,” said Co-Director Chris LeDantec.

The highly competitive internship selected 17 interns from around the country from a pool of over a hundred applicants with backgrounds in computer science, statistics, digital media, public policy, civil engineering, industrial engineering and urban planning. This year, DSSG received sponsorship from the National Science Foundation and the South Big Data Innovation Hub at the program level.

During the first week, students participated in hands-on tutorials in data analytics, web stack development, spatial information, and geographic information systems. In the remaining weeks, students worked with government and nonprofit partners to design data-driven solutions. They also attended weekly seminars with invited speakers from academia and industry on technical topics and prominent examples of using data for good.

By working with real data and organizations, the students develop useful tools. “Some of these apps will be used by the actual agencies, so that means they’re really influencing people’s lives,” said South Big Data Hub Co-Executive Director Renata Rawlings-Goss.

They also learn critical skills such as stakeholder engagement, data acquisition and processing, data analysis and visualization, machine learning for predictive modeling, writing, and communicating results to nontechnical audiences.

During the summer of 2017, students worked on projects targeting five social problems:

Food for Thought: Analyzing Public Opinion on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Interns: Miriam Chappelka, Jihwan Oh, Dorris Scott, Mizzani Walker-Holmes
Georgia Tech Program Mentor: Carl DiSalvo, Associate Professor in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
Community Partner: Atlanta Community Food Bank

A major tool in the fight against hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. Understanding the news cycles, geography and changing attitudes of the population toward SNAP is useful for shaping policy. Teams used data from census, voting records, news articles, Twitter and Facebook to categorize sentiments and conduct text mining. The team created three products: an InfoMap to view the geography and some correlates of SNAP-related attitudes, a voting records database to prepare for meetings with policymakers, and a Visualization of Sentiment Analysis to assess sentiment about SNAP during major events.

Cycle Atlanta: Seeing Like a Bike
Interns: Javier Argota, Myeong Lee, Noel Mannariat, Erica Pantoja
Georgia Tech Program Mentor: Chris LeDantec, Associate Professor in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
Community Partner: City of Atlanta

Not all bikers feel comfortable cycling throughout Atlanta, especially during rush hour. The team designed multi-sensor boxes to generate data on factors such as traffic speed, traffic volume, percent of heavy vehicles, proximity to traffic, lane configurations, pavement conditions, and many others that account for riders’ stress. Their analyses involved the creation of a Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) model and the use of two machine learning algorithms. The goal is to provide reliable data-driven evidence that helps policy makers refine cycling infrastructure and environmental conditions for cyclists of all comfort levels.

Atlanta Housing Justice: The Anti-Displacement Tax Fund
Interns: Jeremy Auerbach, Hayley Barton, Takeria Blunt, Vishwamitra Chaganti, Bhavya Ghai
Georgia Tech Program Mentors: Christopher Blackburn, Ph.D. Candidate in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts; Amanda Meng, Research Associate in the College of Computing; Ellen Zegura, Professor in the College of Computing
Community Partner: Atlanta Legal Aid Society

Urban revitalization on Atlanta’s Westside, including construction of the Beltline and a new stadium, has caused increased property values and fears that residents will be displaced. An anti-displacement tax fund exists to offset the increase in property taxes for eligible residents. However, stakeholders need to understand program cost, and number of people impacted. This project determined the number of eligible homeowners using location, owner-occupancy, property liens data, and an income model based on home characteristics. It forecasted home appreciation and property tax increases, and created an interactive web app for community members to view eligibility and estimated property tax increases. The team’s projections show a higher cost and greater number of eligible households than those previously released, highlighting the value of data science techniques and community participation.

Building Energy Analytics
Interns: Keyan Halperin, Lingzi Hong, Brendon Machado, and Ricardo Macias
Georgia Tech Program Mentor: Bistra Dilkina, Assistant Professor in the College of Computing
Community Partner: Georgia Tech Facilities Management

All Georgia Tech buildings have sensors that assess how much energy is being used every 15 minutes over the past few years. Despite the ongoing data collection, it has largely remained unexamined. The team used the energy data from four buildings, along with local weather and building occupancy to model energy usage at Georgia Tech. They determined factors related to energy usage and predicted how it changes with related events. Using six models, they predicted energy usage, common denominators, and unique aspects of a particular building that accounted for the most energy consumption. For example, the number of classes was by far the most important predictor of energy consumption in all buildings. But temperature impacted the buildings differently. Future work can extend models throughout campus, and identify inefficient buildings for upgrades.

Predicting and Alleviating Road Flooding in Senegal
Interns: Keyan Halperin, Lingzi Hong, Brendon Machado, and Ricardo Macias
Georgia Tech Program Mentor: Bistra Dilkina, Assistant Professor in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech
Community Partner: United Nations Global Pulse

Climate change has the potential to raise the risk of flood for coastal countries, impacting the living environment and threatening the success of crucial city development. The team created models to determine which populations or regions are most vulnerable to disruptions to movement caused by flooding, and which roads should be targeted for mitigation. First they modeled the flooding risk of each road segment based on historical weather and topographical data. They then modeled the volume of traffic of each road to quantify how necessary it is for accessibility between different parts of the country. Road importance was established by phone records that included when each tower location was used by a customer, traffic flow was assigned based on the data volume. Putting it all together, the team determined the consequences and mitigation strategies for traffic flows redirected due to flooded, inaccessible roads.

Several DSSG-ATL projects from previous years have received recognition:

DSSG-ATL is part of a broader community of Data Science for Social Good programs, including the original DSSG program organized by the University of Chicago, as well as the newer programs at the University of Washington, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and most recently at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center. Participants become part of an exciting network of students, mentors, professors and projects taking place around the United States. DSSG-ATL maintains online descriptions of its projects on its website.


March 30, 2017

IDEaS Launch

Big IDEaS in Data Science

Georgia Tech's Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS), led by Co-Executive Directors Srinivas Aluru and Dana Randall, convened more than a hundred members of the local data science community at its launch Wednesday in the Atrium of the Klaus Advanced Computing Building.

The event was set in motion by Executive Vice President of Research Stephen E. Cross, whose welcome included a view of interdisciplinary research across Georgia Tech, and the rationale and value of the Interdisciplary Research Institutes (IRIs) like IDEaS. A series of short introductory presentations transitioned into a town hall conversation about opportunities, resources, and ways to engage. The evening ended with a celebratory reception and presentation of data-driven music provided by Mason Bretan, a Ph.D. graduate student in the Center for Music Technology. The reception also included a presentation featuring the research of IDEaS-affilated faculty, centers, and institutes.

During the town hall, Dana Randall introduced the IDEaS team, including the recently appointed Associate Directors David Sherrill (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Deirdre Shoemaker (Physics), and Marilyn Wolf (Electrical and Computer Engineering), and the newly formed IDEaS Faculty Council. Randall also talked about the role IDEaS will play in shaping research neighborhoods in the upcoming Coda Building. "We want the community to engage with us and start a conversation about their data science needs. To create the next big idea in data science with us."

Co-Executive Director Srinivas Aluru gave an overview on how the Institute is composed, and of its motivation, goals, and affiliations with centers dedicated to data science foundational research and applications. IDEaS is also closely allied with the South Big Data Hub, with Aluru (as the hub PI) and Rawlings-Goss (as the hub Co-Executive Director) serving in leadership roles of both entitites.

Aluru discussed IDEaS's progress to date, including three Industry-Academia-bridging workshops in the areas of Materials and Manufacturing, Analytics and Machine Learning, and Precision Medicine. A fourth upcoming workshop at Georgia Tech on April 26-27 will concentrate on IoT for smart and connected cities and campuses. Aluru summarized IDEaS's work developing collaborative proposals to date, and issued a call to mobilize for future strategic activities. Aluru and Randall called attention to upcoming activities such as several IDEaS mini-retreats: IDEaS in Research,  IDEaS for the Future, a retreat on Data Science for Pediatrics (with the Pediatric Technology Center) on May 23, and a Retreat for Energy (with SEI) in early Fall. Other events include monthly networking gatherings, with the first of these scheduled for April 28 at 4pm; Data Science modules, short courses, specialized training; and the IDEaS seminar series starting in the fall on Fridays from 3-4 pm. IDEaS is also planning to launch the IDEaS Labs, and the IDEaS Data Repositories. Anyone interested in contributing to these efforts can contact the IDEaS team.

Renata Rawlings-Goss, the Directory of Industry Partnerships, gave a synopsis of the IDEaS Industry Alliance Program. "We've had some early successes," she said. "For example, through our new Program to Empower Partnerships with Industry (PEPI) program, companies like United Healthcare and McKesson are paired with faculty for research, going on-site to target relevant problems and growing new working partnerships." She also explained how IDEaS worked with Microsoft to become an executive partner and provided faculty resources as well as cloud support. Microsoft's gift to Georgia Tech included Microsoft Azure and funding for seed projects in Data Engineering and Science. Rawlings-Goss asked interested industry and faculty researchers to get involved by contacting her.

Nearly 130 people attended the days events, with about a quarter of those from industry.The event was planned by Shkina Halbert of IDEaS, with assistance from the CoC's Event Planner, Birney Robert. Robert, who is also a studio artist, crafted technology-themed artwork using an arrangement of surplus store circuit boards, wiring, and light bulbs, and used these as table centerpieces.

While the IRI was officially organized last summer, the event marks the operational launch of IDEaS, and the beginning of a new campus-wide conversation on data science research, partnerships, resources, and education. Join the conversation. Contact a member of the IDEaS team to learn more.

IDEaS unifies data science researchers and resources spanning all disciplines throughout Georgia Tech to take on grand challenges in data science. It strategically builds collaborations and supporting resources to stimulate foundational research in areas such as machine learning, high-performance computing, and algorithms and optimization. It identifies and unites researchers to pursue collaborative and ambitious funding opportunities, to drive research, and to evolve and promote data science education. IDEaS provides an accessible and stable means of navigating the vast landscape of data science research and opportunities internally, and externally as it connects to industry and other partners.

The twelve Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs) of Georgia Tech are responsible for bringing together a mix of researchers – spanning colleges, departments, and individual labs – around a single core research area. IRIs also connect a large portfolio of basic and applied research programs, support world-class research facilities and laboratories, engage Georgia Tech students, and collaborate with government and industry research partners.

View photos on Flickr


February 9, 2017

Awards for Microsoft Seed Funding

Faculty from the Colleges of Computing and Engineering have received awards for their proposals submitted in response to our call "Seed Funding in Data Engineering and Science for Cloud Computing Projects." The awards are funded by a generous gift to Georgia Tech from Microsoft to provide access to Microsoft Azure to seed projects in Data Engineering and Science. Microsoft Azure is a flexible cloud computing platform and infrastructure designed to support building, deploying, and managing data-intensive applications. Proposals were evaluated based on intellectual merit, match of needs to project scope, and on the impact to science or society. Each of the following awardees receives approximately $25,000 plus Microsoft Azure Credits equating to $25,000 per project:

  • Umakishore Ramachandran (CoC) for "SDO: Software defined orchestration in the fog-cloud continuum for situation awareness"
    Situation awareness deals with recognizing when sensed data could lead to actionable knowledge, and the associated sensors produce data around the clock, creating high bandwidth issues, latency demands, and extraneous data that need not be transported to the cloud. Ramachandran's research employs a holistic view of networks across all levels of the resource continuum from IoT platforms to the cloud. The work aims to exploit and extend Azure to provide infrastructure support for fog-computing using Ramachandran's execution framework called Foglets.
  • Ghassan AlRegib (ECE), in collaboration with Haibin Di, Zhiling Long, Dogancan Temel for "Cloud-enabled see-through"
    Computation imaging is fundamental to a variety of applications such as medical diagnostics, industrial manufacturing, energy exploitation, and space exploration. With the explosive growth of the size and volumes of image-associated data, and the need for interdisciplinary collaboration, the cloud has become a superior resource. The proposed work would develop high-security data sharing and storage on Microsoft Azure, advanced image-data-processing tools, user friendly visualization interfaces, and an integrated development environment. The resulting platform could impact numerous applications including petroleum exploration, medical diagnostics, and the inspection of precision instruments.
  • May Dongmei Wang (BME) for "GenePLUS: Developing a deep-learning-based open source tool over Azure cloud to enhance novel genome gene prediction"
    Accurately predicting genic structure is important for achieving a more efficient functional analysis of the organism, and such work requires large computing and storage resources such as Microsoft Azure services. Wang's proposed work will design, develop and deploy an open-source tool for the bioinformatics community that will use multiple genomic sequences and deep learning technologies to improve gene prediction accuracy.


February 7, 2017

IDEaS Welcomes New Associate Directors

Three faculty recently accepted roles with IDEaS.

  • Deirdre Shoemaker takes on the position of IDEaS Associate Director for Research and Strategic Initiatives. Deirdre is a Professor in the School of Physics, College of Sciences, and is one of the founding members of the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, for which she is the current director.  She is also an adjunct associate professor of the School of Computational Science and Engineering.
  • David Sherrill has become the IDEaS Associate Director for Research and Education. David is the director of the Center for Computational Molecular Science and Technology, and is a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Sciences.
  • Marilyn Wolf steps into her new role of IDEaS Associate Director for Research Infrastructure and Shared Resources. Marilyn is the Rhesa S. Farmer Distinguished Chair of Embedded Computing Systems, and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering.


January 27, 2017

First Southern Data Science Conference comes to Atlanta on April 7

The data science community and members of the South Big Data Hub should mark their calendars for the very first Southern Data Science Conference, to be held on April 7 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Perimeter at Villa Christina. The conference is expected to attract data science thought leaders from around the southeast and the nation and will feature speakers from innovative companies and research laboratories, such as Google, Microsoft, AT&T, NASA, Glassdoor and Groupon.



June 5, 2016

A teaching assistant named Jill Watson

In his TedX Talk, Ashok Goel discusses the use of AI to enrich education.

Watch the video...


September 29, 2016

South Big Data Hub announces awards that apply data science to regional challenges

Three research teams in the Southern U.S. will receive funding for projects designed to use data science and data analytics to address challenges related to healthcare, environmental sustainability, and updating and improving power grids. The funding will be awarded through the “Big Data Spokes” program of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Big Data Regional Innovation Hub initiative.



September 28, 2016

Addressing Environmental Challenges with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence - Georgia Tech to collaborate with Smithsonian Institution and IBM

Soon scientists and the public will have the chance to easily test hypotheses about America’s ecological challenges with the help of an ensemble of technologies, including artificial intelligence. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology will link their technology for systems thinking with IBM Watson and the Encyclopedia of Life at the Smithsonian. Scientists will then be able to use the information to create their own models about the environment and efficiently test them.



August 28, 2016

Data Driven - Turning numbers into knowledge - Powerful computers and sophisticated algorithms change the way research is done.

When it comes to scientific circles, data science may be a new kid on the block, but it’s rapidly become everyone’s best friend. A highly interdisciplinary field that blends statistics, computing, algorithms, applied mathematics, and visualization, data science uses automated methods to gather and extract knowledge from very large or complex sets of data. “Data science is difficult to explain because any way you define it, you’re usually excluding something that is critically important,” said Dana Randall, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science.



May 31, 2016

The Big Data Issue: Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine, Vol. 92, No. 2

Issue dedicated to profiles of Big Data research across Georgia Tech.



June 5, 2016

Georgia Tech Meets Big Data Challenges by Uniting Under New Institute

The Georgia Institute of Technology is tackling the challenges of big data by creating the new Institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS). Announced today, the new Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI) will unite researchers across Georgia Tech, foster important partnerships with industry, and play a key role in building the community of the recently announced Coda building in Technology Square.



April 20, 2016

Georgia Tech, Portman Announce Coda in Tech Square

The Georgia Institute of Technology and Portman gathered Atlanta’s civic and business leaders Wednesday to announce Coda, an unprecedented collaborative building including Georgia Tech’s high performance computing center located in Tech Square. The approximately 750,000-square-foot mixed-use project represents a $375 million investment into the budding innovation district.


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