Welcome to Booster!
 Volume 6    July 2013
Message from the Director
Big Data: Old Hat and Forte of the VACCINE Team Part 2
Visual analytics can help solve several of the problems that are not addressed by the proposed mainstream big data analytics techniques. As noted by David Brooks in his New York Times article on February 18, 2013, big data analytics can’t handle qualitative, fuzzy, and social data well (e.g., trust, preferences). Humans are much more adept at reasoning with such data. Similarly, incomplete context creates significant problems for automated analytical algorithms and for most complicated, real-world situations, the available data sources normally are not complete and don’t have all the information that goes into the final decision making as do the human decision makers. These examples are exactly where visual analytic approaches are much better solutions since visual analytics capitalizes on the best and complimentary abilities of both components of the human-computer decision-making process through iterative, interactive visual interfaces to leverage and supplement the powerful cognitive capabilities of the human user. Our visual analytic solutions provide relevant information for the decision maker to supplement and enhance their decision making ability, whether they are making operational allocation decisions for the U.S. Coast Guard or a law enforcement officer on the street.
Automated analytical algorithms employing statistical analysis with large data sets can find many statistically significant events, correlations, and factors, but without the appropriate context and deeper understanding of the problem/phenomena under study, the majority of these may be completely irrelevant to the decision maker or scientist. Therefore, this additional irrelevant information leads not only to more work by the decision maker to tease out useful information, but leads to less trust in the usefulness and results from the algorithms.  By having the decision maker, officer, and scientist/engineer interactive drive and interrogate the analysis and presenting the information in a relevant context, visual analytic approaches overcome this issue.
As Brooks also notes, visual analytic approaches are also much better at tackling big, complex, multifaceted, multiparameter problems (e.g., grand challenges) because they help organize information, and knowledge used in the solution process instead of try to solve the problem with automated algorithms alone when there is incomplete information involved (e.g., incomplete context, additional factors, historical information, unquantified dependencies, hard to predict public reactions).
As you can see, our visual analytic approach has many advantages since the goal is to empower the scientist, decision maker, engineer to be more effective in their task by providing additional, timely, guided, relevant knowledge for their task. These solutions do require close interaction with our partners to ensure we are providing relevant, useful knowledge and we have many years of experience in forming these partnerships to help solve difficult problems. We are always looking for new partners and new challenges, so please contact us if you think we can be of assistance.
Morgan State University Undergrads Undergo Visual Analytics Boot Camp
VACCINE had the pleasure of hosting four undergraduate students from Morgan State University during the first half of July. The purpose of their visit was to learn about the field of visual analytics and its many different uses; in particular how it can be applied to Homeland Security issues. While the students toured a number of diverse research facilities on the Purdue Campus, the main portion of their time was spent learning visual analytics and applying it to a general data set (socio-economic and health/epidemiological information from Baltimore County, where the students reside) in a way that lends itself to the students' interest and disciplines. In examining the health and demographic information from a community indicators project, it was critical that the students first determined, with the help of VACCINE RAs, what they were hoping to understand from that data and what questions they should be asking.
The lectures and exercises worked towards this goal, incorporating the use of visual analytics and training in various software tools and packages along the way. Each student examined different perspectives and correlations (in the photo above student, LaShaunda Johnson, is presenting her findings on the relationship between dirty streets and alleys and life expectancy).The education component of any Center of Excellence is critical to the future success of the Department of Homeland Security - all told, the students had a wonderful experience and learned enough to gain an interest and understanding of what Visual Analytics is.
Career Development Grant Spotlight 
Dr. Daniel Richardson, recent graduate of Purdue University was awarded the Career Development Grant in YEAR. He spent his time at Purdue researching and learning about Mechanical Engineering. The HS STEM area he was most interested in was Explosives, Detection, Mitigation, and Response. His project involved explosive detection and identification with advanced laser techniques. In order to complete his year of service, Daniel has been working as a National Research Council Research Associate at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He is currently part of the laser diagnostics group at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Daniel's work has increased the understanding of fundamental fluid dynamics as well as the application of laser diagnostics to challenging environments. This, in turn, is related to the areas of explosive detection, biological and chemical threat detection. Please congratulate Daniel on his recent graduation and completion of the HS STEM Fellowship sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security!
- On July 8th, VACCINE welcomed four students from Morgan State University for a two week course in Visual Analytics and learned about tools that can help them visualize data. 
- On July 24th, VACCINE hosted Dr. Teresa Neely from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Neely was interested in learning about our research.
- On July 26th, VACCINE hosted Dr. Unmil Karadkar from the University of Texas for a visit. VACCINE PI, Dr. Kelly Gaither also stopped by the lab to meet with students and discuss projects.
- On July 30th & 31st VACCINE hosted an Visual Analytics course for MSI Faculty on the Jackson State University campus. Faculty from various institutions learned about the field of Visual Analytics and incorporating the science into their courses or creating VA courses.
- On September 26th and 27th, VACCINE will host its annual meeting on Purdue's campus in West Lafayette, IN. 
- On November 13th and 14th VACCINE and the United States Coast Guard will be hosting the 2013 Maritime Risk Symposium in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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