Knowledge mining resource accelerates science, technology education, research

Oct 13, 2011
Aditya Johri, assistant professor of engineering education; Naren Ramakrishnan, professor of computer science; and G. Alan Wang, assistant professor of business information technology, meet at the Discovery Analytics Center at Virginia Tech. In the background is a sequence from a 4.5 minute YouTube video set to music by Moby (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqd6vpjzqBI), which illustrates the evolving connectivity of the past 10 years of conference papers presented at major engineering education meetings (IEEE/ASEE-ERM Frontiers of Education). Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech

Interdisciplinary collaborations bring vitality and success to the nation's research enterprise. Such interactions among disciplines also provide robust, real-life experiences for university students.

"If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive." This quote by Lew Platt, the former of , motivated a pair of researchers from the College of Engineering and the Pamplin College of Business to ask "How can we know what Virginia Tech knows and how can this knowledge enhance future research and education?"

With funding from Virginia Tech's strategic Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, which is interested enhancing research and education at the university, Aditya Johri, assistant professor of engineering education, and G. Alan Wang, assistant professor of business information technology, created Virginia Tech (VTKN) – and have gone on to partner in two multi-million dollar national projects as a result.

"VTKN is a repository of more than 5,000 publications by the College of Engineering faculty, which allowed us to test ideas and discover different kinds of interaction patterns across departments," said Johri. The technical term for the process is data mining and data visualization or, in this context, knowledge mining and authorship network visualizations. For instance, the collaborative patterns show that centers bring together researchers from different disciplines and interaction patterns of large centers are indistinguishable from those of many disciplinary departments.

"This prompts us to question the traditional disciplinary structure of colleges and universities at a time when interdisciplinary collaboration is becoming a norm and a necessity for addressing the grand challenges of the 21st century," said Johri.

In 2009, Johri and Wang partnered with researchers at Purdue University on the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project, Interactive Knowledge Networks in Engineering Education Research (iKNEER at ikneer.org). That network now contains more than 25,000 documents related to engineering education. "Users can dynamically interact with the information to understand the evolution and state of the field," said Johri.

Community memory is needed to allow faculty members to build on prior work. Enter iKNEER – a community memory capable of drawing knowledge to a problem faster than the firing of a human synapse. IKNEER allows someone who is not an expert in data mining to make sense of massive amounts of data through intuitive and user-friendly interfaces.

"This system is particularly useful for newcomers to the discipline, such as graduate students in the newly formed Departments of Engineering Education, as it provides a comprehensive and systematic understanding of the formation and growth of the field," said Johri. "For senior researchers it reveals prospective and potential research collaborations – particularly those across topics – that might lead to novel outcomes."

Meanwhile, in 2010, the Discovery Analytics Center (dac.cs.vt.edu) was launched at Virginia Tech with support from the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. Directed by Naren Ramakrishnan, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, the center brings together researchers from computer science, statistics, mathematics, and electrical and computer engineering to tackle knowledge discovery problems in such areas of national interest as intelligence analysis, sustainability, neuroscience, and systems biology.

Projects include quantifying multiple environmental impacts of a product across its entire life cycle; helping intelligence analysts by piecing together a story between seemingly disconnected information; connecting information embedded in patients' records; and, through collaboration with Johri and Wang, developing new data mining and visualization tools for characterizing the portfolio of projects conducted through the NSF's Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program.

In September 2011, the NSF funded a new project to create a resource for educators of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – fields where U.S. students lag the rest of the world. Johri and Wang, joined by Ramakrisnhan, are partnering once again with their Purdue colleagues, plus with researchers at Stanford and Arizona State University. The researchers will create an interactive Web search and information visualization platform called Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere.

Funded by a $3 million, four-year grant, the project aims to help researchers and NSF program officers identify trends in publications and research funding, gaps in current research and funding, and potential collaborators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

"This is a Web-based knowledge-mining interactive visualization platform," said Krishna P. C. Madhavan, assistant professor of at Purdue and principal investigator for the project, who is working with co-principal investigators Niklas Elmqvist, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Mihaela Vorvoreanu, an assistant professor of computer graphics technology, also at Purdue.

The Deep Insights system will enable researchers and officials to quickly determine who is working in specific areas, who their collaborators are, and to identify funding sources, program officers, research papers and findings. The system visualizes complex networks of funding and research collaborations with a map created anew for each search. The network map contains clickable nodes that yield further layers of information. "The interactive visualizations are designed to shed light on insights that may be typically hidden from a researcher or educator," Madhavan said.

"The Virginia Tech team will work closely with the other universities' researchers to understand the needs of the NSF undergraduate education community and use their needs to drive the design of data mining algorithms," said Johri. "This project will leverage the resources of the Discovery Analytics Center and the prior work by Johri and Wang as part of iKNEER and Virginia Tech Knowledge Networks."

Explore further: Robot sub returns to water after first try cut short (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Professor to explore global emergence of engineering

Jan 24, 2006

Gary Downey, a professor science and technology in society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to research the emergence of the engineering ...

NSF funds first nanoscale center for learning and teaching

Oct 01, 2004

With a five-year, $15,000,000 grant to Northwestern University, the National Science Foundation is funding the nation's first Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NCLT). The center, under ...

Regents approve pioneering nanosystems degree

Feb 24, 2005

The Louisiana Board of Regents granted final approval Thursday for Louisiana Tech to offer the nanosystems engineering degree program, the first such program in the nation. Tech’s new Bachelor of Science degree program wil ...

Recommended for you

Gaza cops trade bullets for laser-tech in training

Apr 14, 2014

Security forces in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are using technology to practice shooting on laser simulators, saving money spent on ammunition in the cash-strapped Palestinian territory.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...