Feature Stories

Big Data Expands

UMass Data Science for the Commonwealth
  • Graph showing Homophily, the connectivity between similar nodes in a network

The dramatic rise in data collection coupled with new computational techniques for data analysis and machine learning are revolutionizing science, medicine and business. The UMass Amherst Center for Data Science is expanding the campus's Big Data capacity.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has launched a new Center for Data Science that will coordinate and significantly expand its capacity for research, education and industry collaboration in support of the exploding demand for acquisition and analysis of “big data.” In conjunction with this new Center, the five-campus University system has issued a new report that paints a clear picture of how the five-campus system is using and managing Big Data––massive amounts of information that is collected, analyzed and harnessed––for new discoveries and smart decision-making.

Data science, as it's called, is the interdisciplinary and complex mining of knowledge from big data. According to the report, the five campuses, the flagship in Amherst, the medical school the Worcester, and the Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell campuses, have world-leading strengths in three key complementary areas: (1) building infrastructure to access and process Big Data efficiently and effectively; (2) developing machine learning analytics that construct statistical models and make accurate, meaningful predictions; and (3) creating applications in a wide range of fields, from fighting terrorism to finding cures for diseases.

More than 150 UMass faculty members working in areas directly related to data science have collectively generated $168 million in research funding since 2010 and are recognized internationally for their research. These researchers have established partnerships with many Fortune 500 companies including Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Oracle, Raytheon, BAE and MassMutual.

The pioneering UMass research in data science dovetails with the needs of the nearly 500 Massachusetts companies tapping into Big Data to improve our world and their bottom line. These firms have already attracted the interest of many investors. Private investment in Big Data in Massachusetts since 2000 has totaled $2.5 billion.

In addition to driving innovation and discovery, the UMass system is the pipeline for a workforce educated in Big Data and the next generation of data scientists. UMass awarded 17 percent of the 1,000 data science degrees granted statewide in 2012. The majority of graduates from comprehensive bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs remain in their home state. No doubt they will be critical to filling 120,000 Big Data jobs expected by 2018. Equally as important, educated workers will keep Big Data firms thriving in Massachusetts and support the burgeoning industry. This will increase the prosperity and wellbeing of the Commonwealth.       

As a public research university with a statewide geographic presence, UMass is uniquely positioned to spur economic engagement and contribute to Big Data for solving problems in all economic sectors from agriculture and fisheries to manufacturing and health care. For example, UMass professors are trailblazers in the field of wearable motion sensors and the Amherst campus is a founding member of a national center of excellence focused on using mobile sensor data to improve patient health.

The report is organized around each campus’s Big Data activities, research centers, labs, and institutes, and highlights of faculty at work. An appendix lists all faculty by name along with their academic department affiliation and research focus area(s).

Source: University of Massachusetts President's Office website