Big Data Is Big Time

New center provides opportunities to use multimodal data to solve community problems and develop a critical workforce in Missouri and Midwest.

Shu-Ching Chen, Ph.D., has always known big data would be the wave of the future.

Chen is the inaugural executive director of the Data Science and Analytics Innovation Center (dSAIC) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a position he took to continue his research into multimodal big data analytics. By harnessing immense datasets to extract insights, patterns and knowledge, dSAIC provides the foundation for transformational research.

Multimodal big data analytics combines techniques from artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and more to analyze data from different sources and apply them to solve fundamental and real-world problems.

“Companies need to analyze data to benefit business,” Chen said. “If you don’t take advantage, you fall behind.”

At dSAIC, Chen and his team are working to create tools to help students, companies and stakeholders seamlessly bring together different kinds of data points as quickly as possible to allow for easier analysis and integration.

During his 21 years at Florida International University in Miami, Chen’s research into multimodal big data analytics earned funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, Army Research Office, Naval Research Laboratory, Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Florida Department of Transportation, IBM and Microsoft.

His research was also used to help emergency management in several aspects of post-hurricane recovery efforts, like insurance approvals and damage analysis. Chen plans to continue that work in Kansas City, collaborating with emergency management in other natural disaster- related recoveries, as well as continue to develop tools that can make an impact in all industries and communities across the state.

"Companies need to analyze data to benefit business. If you don’t take advantage, you fall behind."

— Shu-Ching Chen, Ph.D.                               

Now, with Chen as the leader of dSAIC, the center will support university research across Missouri and will play a critical role in workforce development across Kansas City and the region. He also hopes to continue developing models and projects that can be easily recognized by the general public.

In his short time as executive director, the center has been awarded grants, including from the U.S. Department of Education Center of Excellence in Spatial Computing, bringing in more than $1 million in funding.

In Chen’s eyes, dSAIC has the potential to be a prestigious hub for multimodal data science due to Kansas City’s continued growth and potential. He hopes to bring together stakeholders and community leaders to identify the need, identify potential projects and identify the impact, helping make it the best data science center in the country.

Kansas City’s central location, growing potential and opportunities make it an ideal place for students to learn and apply multimodal research into the community, as well as making an impact on surrounding states in the region.

Chen sees the center as a place where graduates will learn the necessary skills and stand out when applying for jobs in the Kansas City area, the region, across the country and around the world.

In an industry where technology is evolving quickly, the center will allow students to develop the skills necessary to keep up with the challenges and changes. The Data Science and Analytics Innovation Center will also be a place for alumni to return to campus and share experience from real-world applications, giving students a unique learning experience.

But it doesn’t stop at data science. Chen believes students from all disciplines and academic units can benefit from studying multimodal data analytics at dSAIC and meet the demand for high-quality employees from top companies.

Data is at the heart of artificial intelligence and machine learning, like the popular ChatGPT, which has seen several applications that go beyond simple search inquiries. With a center like the dSAIC, Chen sees possibilities at the forefront of the next generation of data science technologies.


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