Leaders in science, engineering, government, and industry will address fast-moving opportunities and challenges in the field of “big data” at the Virginia Summit on Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

“Big data” describes collections of data sets that have the potential to be mined for vital information, but they are so large and complex they challenge traditional data-processing methods.

The issues involved in collecting, storing, and interpreting massive amounts of data will be addressed at a “Big Data Science” summit meeting co-hosted by Virginia Tech with the new Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and its honorary chair, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. 

The meeting begins Thursday evening with a poster session and reception in the Great Hall at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

“Virginia has some of the nation’s leading universities, and I commend the Virginia Academy for addressing important ‘big data’ applications that will enable us to be on the forefront in solving some of the most complex societal and medical problems of our day,” said Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands.

Chaired by Sallie Keller, a nationally recognized researcher in statistical and data sciences and a professor at Virginia Tech, the program committee includes six Virginia Tech faculty members in a statewide collaboration with the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“This year’s summit is an opportunity to address our increasing need to adequately account for the role of big data in our future planning and research," said Keller, director of the Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington.

Program committee members invited national and international leaders in technology and industry, social and economic statistics, and health and medicine to present their research and discuss emerging future directions.

Ken Prewitt, the Carnegie professor of public affairs at Columbia University, will kick off the sessions Friday morning talking about “Big Data in Science and Society.”

The program will also feature Michael Batty of the University College, London, who will talk about “Creating a New Science of the City.”

In addition to Keller, five Virginia Tech faculty members served on the program steering committee, including:

  • Christopher Barrett, executive director of Virginia Bioinformatics and an international authority in Network Dynamics and Simulation Science. He recently received the Army Patriot Award and was awarded a Jubilee Professorship from Chalmers University in Gothenberg, Sweden.
  • Dennis Dean, the J.B. Stroobants Professor of Biotechnology, a University Distinguished Professor, director of the Fralin Life Science Institute, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Patricia Dove, University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences in the College of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the board of directors of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
  • Naren Ramakrishnan, the Thomas L. Phillips Professor of Engineering and director of the Discovery Analytics Center of the Department of Computer Science, which receives support for the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. He is based at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington.
  • Stephanie Shipp, deputy director of the Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Founded in 2013, the new Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine is a nonprofit organization comprised of members of the National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine who reside or work in Virginia.  The new organization is comprised of more than 150 individuals who reside or work in Virginia. 

The nonpartisan state academy seeks to promote advanced research and innovation in Virginia by fostering interchange between individuals and organizations.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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