LAS Signature Research Themes’ workshop examines opportunities of data-rich environments across many fields

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The emergence of immense amounts of data presents new opportunities – and challenges – in discovery informatics.

The first College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Signature Research Themes workshop, "Exploring Data-Rich Environments," will examine new avenues for data-driven research in the sciences, humanities and business by leveraging strengths in the mathematical sciences.

The free workshop is Friday, Oct. 11, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Scheman Building at the Iowa State Center. Pre-registration is required.

The conference is designed for ISU faculty and research staff interested in cross-disciplinary research opportunities. The workshop includes two keynote speakers, a panel discussion, breakout sessions and dinner.

"This first Signature Theme workshop is intended to illustrate the breadth of the theme and to help faculty from diverse disciplines visualize how they fit," Martin Spalding, associate dean for research in the College of LAS, said. "This is a major goal for all the workshops."

Additional workshops will be planned for the college’s other four Signature Themes. Read about the Signature Themes here.

"Massive data sets are everywhere now: financial transaction data, individual credit histories, digitized books and sensor networks, to name just a few," said Philip Dixon, University Professor of statistics and member of the workshop steering committee.

He added that by using huge data sets, questions that were unthinkable a few years ago can be addressed today. Yet, the challenges of big data are forcing development of new quantitative methods. "This workshop highlights the challenges and opportunities of big data across many fields."

The afternoon keynote speaker is Matt Jockers, from the Department of English at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He will present his work using machine-learning methods to analyze literature, specifically Jane Austen’s impact and her literary mentor, Maria Edgeworth. The second keynote speaker, Kris de Brabanter, from the departments of Statistics and Computer Science at Iowa State, will give an overview of the field and describe new ways to extract information from sensor networks.

Register for the workshop by emailing Kristin Doerder ( by noon on Friday, October 4. The workshop’s two keynote lectures are open to everyone, and no registration is required for the lectures. Registration is required for the remainder of the workshop and dinner.

Workshop Schedule:

1-1:15 p.m. Benton Auditorium – Welcome, Dean Beate Schmittmann, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

1:15-2:15 p.m. Benton Auditorium – Opening keynote: “Data Driven Criticism: A (Literary) Lab Report,” by Matthew Jockers, Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

2:15-2:30 p.m. Benton Auditorium – Update on ISU resources for big-data research

2:30-3 p.m. 1st-Floor Lobby – Refreshments

3-4 p.m. 004 Scheman – Panel Discussion

4-5 p.m. 004 Scheman – Breakout sessions

5-5:45 p.m. 1st-Floor Lobby – Social hour: Cash bar, light hors d’oeuvres

5:45-7 p.m. 190 Stagedoor – Buffet dinner

7-8 p.m. 190 Stagedoor – Closing keynote: “Challenges in Big Data: Theory and Applications,” by Kris de Brabanter, departments of Computer Science and Statistics, Iowa State University