Converting Big Data into useful knowledge requires team effort, CSUSB dean says
Office of Strategic Communication
Big Data, huge volumes of data that cannot be processed with traditional databases and software techniques, is changing the dynamics of many industries and occupations including science, education, business, law enforcement and health care, and that is affecting the job market, said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the Cal State San Bernardino College of Natural Sciences.
The hottest jobs in the country include genetic counseling, mathematicians and data scientists because they involve mathematics and data, said Pantula during his talk, “Big Data and Promises,” held at the John M. Pfau Library Multimedia center on April 16.
“Nerds are on top of the boards right now,” Pantula said to the nearly filled room of more than 80 students, faculty and staff. Pantula, who joined CSUSB last July to lead the college, is a nationally and internationally recognized as a leader in statistical sciences.
Converting data to useful knowledge and information requires a team effort from mathematicians, statisticians, computer scientists and domain experts. Equally important, it also provides career opportunities for students, he said.
Originally, there were a few aspects to consider about Big Data: massive volumes of both structured and unstructured data that is so huge it is difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques; volume, the amount of data; variety, the type of data; and velocity as every second there is new data.
But there are now additional aspects such as data visualization, the value of data – the cost and profit, the validity and veracity of data, and the various uses of Big Data, Pantula said.
Those uses include DNA sequencing, astrophysics and, most recently, Big Data was involved in the image of a black hole that was unveiled last week. It took eight telescopes around the world a week of observations to produce the black hole image, but it took scientists much longer to teach those instruments to work together, according to a story from Space.com.
Nevertheless, the use of Big Data should be used carefully and responsibly, he said.
“Treat data like people. It can be very useful and very hurtful,” he said.
Facts should be facts and not alternative facts, which could ruin the credibility of information gleaned from Big Data. “If you lose that trust, it’s hard to build it back,” Pantula said.
Big data is changing the way in which key industries operate, leading to new levels of efficiency and progress. In the health care field, for example, big data is enhancing patient care by helping to diagnose diseases in their earliest stages, when treatment is usually most effective – and often less costly. In some cases, computers are already outperforming doctors
While big data has broad-ranging potential for improving humanity’s condition, concerns exist about privacy and the security of large amounts of data, such as personal medical records – one the most sensitive types of information collected. To protect privacy and secure information, experts caution, robust safeguards must be built into data-storing systems.
Most recently, Pantula served as director of data analytics programs at Oregon State University (OSU). He also served as dean of the College of Science at OSU from August 2013 to August 2017, after a three-year term as director for the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Pantula spent more than 30 years as a statistics professor at North Carolina State University (NCSU), where he began his academic career in 1982. At NCSU, he also served as director of graduate programs (1994-2002) and head of the department of statistics (2002-2010).
He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Statistical Association (ASA). He served as ASA president in 2010 and received the ASA Founders Award in 2014. Pantula is a member of the honor societies Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Xi, and Mu Sigma Rho. He is also a member of the NCSU Academy of Outstanding Teachers.
Pantula received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, India, and a Ph.D. in statistics from Iowa State University.
For more information on Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Strategic Communication at (909) 537-5007 and visit inside.csusb.edu.