In its effort to promote the research and development of data science methods in support of science research, the Academy of Data Science Discovery Fund has granted three research awards for the 2022-23 academic year.

The projects supported in this year’s awards focus on the use of data science methods in the fields of geophysics, medicine, and systems biology.

The Academy of Data Science Discovery Fund was established in 2021 to provide funding for external interdisciplinary research that includes significant applications of data science methods and advanced computing to large, complex datasets that arise in scientific research.

Open to all College of Science faculty members, including collegiate and research faculty, the fund provides up to $10,000 in funding to a single investigator and up to $20,000 for multiple investigators.

Recipients of this year’s awards are:

  • Johann Rudi, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics. Project: Mathematically modeling the Earth’s mantle convection, a central geophysical process that controls Earth’s geological evolution and the motion of tectonic plates. Rudi’s work aims to improve the understanding of the driving and resisting forces on plate tectonics by using observational data, realistic global mantle flow models, algorithms he has developed, and high-performance computing. Award: $8,461.
  • Alexandra Hanlon, professor of statistics and director of the Center for Biostatistics and Health Data Science, and Azziza Bankole, associate professor in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Project: Analyze data from the third phase of a study seeking to identify agitation in people 50 or older with dementia using a system called the Behavioral and Environmental Sensing and Intervention for Dementia Caregiver Empowerment (BESI). BESI is a system of body-worn and in-home sensors designed to be an unobtrusive, real-time platform that helps caregivers predict dementia-related agitation and implement timely behavioral interventions. Award: $20,000.
  • Anand Banerjee and Pavel Kraikivski, both collegiate assistant professors in the Academy of Integrated Science’s systems biology program. Project: Improved approach to the mathematical modeling of the temporal dynamics of complex cellular processes. These models have been used to study a range of cellular processes including the cell cycle (the growth and division of a cell), circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle), and cellular decision-making (e.g., irreversible YES-or-NO-type binary decisions during apoptosis and cell differentiation). Award: $20,000.

“These awards illustrate how data science is woven into the research being conducted in the College of Science,” said Tom Woteki, founding director of the Academy of Data Science, “as well as what a critical enabler the Discovery Fund is of these investigators’ efforts.

“On behalf of the Academy of Data Science, I am excited to be able to support these researchers who are addressing issues that are so important to us as a society.”

The Academy of Data Science was launched in 2020 to promote the application of data science methods to help solve scientific problems and foster the development of data science methods in support of science. It serves as the interdisciplinary hub for data science collaboration and research for faculty as well as the connective fabric between the College of Science and other Virginia Tech colleges and institutes in the collaboration to develop new data science methodologies and applications.

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