All eyes recently were on big data in the Texas A&M College of Science, which showcased collaborative areas of expertise and opportunity in a three-day symposium -- one of four major workshops presented during what amounted to a jam-packed educational week throughout the college. (Credit: Chris Jarvis)


As thousands of Aggies began arriving in the Brazos Valley last week in preparation for another spring semester at Texas A&M University, professors in the College of Science were returning to the classroom for some schooling of their own as both presenters for and participants in several simultaneous workshops highlighting a jam-packed educational week throughout the John R. Blocker Building.

The centerpiece of the weeklong research showcase was a three-day Big Data Symposium, held January 11-13 in Blocker in an effort to capitalize on the college's considerable expertise in various facets pertaining to this burgeoning multidisciplinary area. The event, organized by Texas A&M statistician Valen E. Johnson, featured short presentations from faculty across the college describing their current research and opportunities for collaboration with statisticians, mathematicians and other scientists within the college and broader university.

"The perception across the college is that there's a natural need to express leadership in areas we're involved in that are cross-cutting and special to us," said Meigan Aronson, dean of the College of Science. "Big data is one that immediately came to the forefront in our discussions. Clearly [gesturing across the packed room], there are lots of people who are interested.

"We have unique strategic data sets in the college that are key to identifying new initiatives and new areas of scholarship. We want to see where those opportunities are."

Johnson, an expert in Bayesian statistics who has served as head of the Texas A&M Department of Statistics since 2014, described the workshop as "a great success" with a potential reach well beyond those present for each day's scheduled presentations. In total, 16 speakers from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Physics and Astronomy got a coveted opportunity to present an overview of the different types of data they currently collect and wish to analyze.

"The audience primarily was composed of statisticians and mathematicians interested in learning more about these projects and identifying topics on which collaboration would be fruitful," Johnson said. "I know that several faculty in Statistics and Mathematics have contacted presenters to initiate further conversations. Personally, I found the talks extremely interesting and am in the process of contacting a couple of natural scientists myself."

Texas A&M Statistics also hosted the Structured Multivariate Data Workshop, held Jan. 14-16 in Blocker. The lecture-format event was co-sponsored by the Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (IAMCS) and also featured a poster session and panel discussion on big data in statistics moderated by Johnson.

Texas A&M Mathematics officially kicked off the week's educational action on Sunday, Jan. 10, with a seven-day installment of Winter Graduate School focused on geometric partial differential equations and their approximations. The National Science Foundation-funded event also co-sponsored by IAMCS featured plenary lectures by distinguished University of Maryland applied mathematician Ricardo Nochetto and Texas A&M mathematician Andrea Bonito, computer laboratory sessions and a deal.ll tutorial presented by Clemson University's Timo Heister, a former visiting assistant professor at Texas A&M.

Like Statistics, Mathematics bookended the week with a second workshop, the Focused Research Group on Hodge Theory, Moduli and Representation Theory. The multi-year, NSF-funded, collaborative project involves five principal investigators at four institutions and integrates their diverse areas of expertise in an ongoing effort to address questions in Hodge theory and related fields. This was the fifth iteration of the FRG workshops, which are small, informal working meetings of the Pis and their students that feature invited talks by outside experts. Speakers from Texas A&M and six other North American universities delivered both public and technical presentations as part of the event.

"The Department of Mathematics typically hosts in excess of 10 workshops and conferences each year," said Emil J. Straube, professor and head of Texas A&M Mathematics since 2011. "We are off to a good start in 2016. These events provide important national and international visibility for the department, the college and the university."

To learn more about research in the College of Science and possible collaborative opportunities, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/research/.

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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $854 million in fiscal year 2014, ranking Texas A&M in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation's Higher Education Research and Development survey (2014). Texas A&M's research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Texas A&M Statistics' Valen E. Johnson, organizer of the Big Data Symposium, presents opening remarks. (All photographs courtesy of Texas A&M Statistics' Deanna Lormand.)

  • The big data event featured short talks from 16 Texas A&M Science faculty on topics ranging from nuclear reactions (Cyclotron Institute's Alan McIntosh, above) to plant genomics (Biology's Tom McKnight, below).

  • McIntosh (center), engaged in an intense small-group discussion during the Big Data Symposium.

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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