Iowa State engineer brings computing expertise to White House Big Data Workshop

AMES, Iowa – President Obama’s administration wants to see government agencies, industries, university researchers, foundations and other groups working together on the country’s big data challenges.

And so the administration is inviting representatives of the various sectors to a White House Big Data Workshop in Washington, D.C., on May 3. They’ll hear about each other’s research projects. And they’ll be encouraged to discuss new research collaborations.

Srinivas Aluru, the Ross Martin Mehl and Marylyne Munas Mehl Professor of Computer Engineering at Iowa State University, has been invited to the workshop to share his expertise in high performance computing.

Big data generally describes the large and complex sets of digital data that are being collected and stored by all sorts of industries and disciplines. A major challenge facing researchers is finding ways to sift through the information and convert it to knowledge for applications of interest.   

Aluru, for example, is leading a project that’s developing a computing toolbox that will help scientists manage all the data from today’s DNA sequencing instruments. Those instruments are literally burying researchers in data and overwhelming existing tools in biological computing.

Srinivas and a team of researchers from Iowa State, Stanford University, Virginia Tech and the University of Michigan are beginning to develop a set of solutions using high performance computing.

The project is supported by a three-year, $2 million award from the BIGDATA program of the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Aluru sees the White House workshop as an opportunity to listen and learn about the various big data projects and challenges across the country. The workshop could also be a chance to begin building new research partnerships.

That could be a big deal for the country and the state, he said. Big data applications include studies of medicine, agronomy, climate change and precision farming.

“My big data project is in biotechnology,” he said, “and that’s of great interest to Iowa.”