Dr. David Bader Driving Global Transformations through Data Science Solutions

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) announced last summer that the University would establish a new Institute of Data Science, focusing on cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and development in all areas of digital data. To head up this endeavor, Dr. David Bader joined NJIT as a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Data Science. Previously serving as the Professor and Chair of the School of Computational Science and Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Bader has become a leading expert in solving global grand challenges in science, engineering, computing, and data science.

Bader has built important collaborations across government, labs, industry, and academia with a mission of turning ideas into highimpact technologies that create worldclass solutions. Partnerships have included IBM, NVidia, Cray, and Intel, with government agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA). “Data is impacting decisions in every field, from health care to finance, arts, entertainment, and cybersecurity,” says Bader. “I am drawn to developing research programs in the emerging area of data science. At NJIT, we are at the hub of all of these areas and the Institute for Data Science brings together faculty from computing, engineering, business and management, and science to develop data-driven technologies.”

A New Era of Science

As a graduate student, Bader attended the University of Maryland and was awarded the NASA Graduate Student Researchers Fellowship. Bader’s mentor from NASA was the late Jerry Soften, who was NASA’s first astrobiologist and the lead scientist on the Viking mission to Mars. “Through this mentorship, I learned a few key lessons about science,” shares Bader. “During this time, Soften was pursuing a new field and pioneering as a biologist as he looked for life outside this planet. He had to develop the science needed for something that falls outside our typical disciplines. I have taken that to heart, in that the most interesting research these days is at the interface between traditional academic boundaries.”

Bader says as we move towards data science, we are looking at data and the uses and impact of this information across business and management, health, financial services, entertainment, and product development. “We are entering into a new era where we must rethink disciplines and investigate how machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will further develop and impact every aspect of our lives.” With an expansive career of pursuing highly competitive research, Bader has managed over eighty projects with an approximate $185 million worth of contracts and grants. “I’ve worked with industry leaders and often provide the thought leadership for the design of new algorithms and systems, such as doing the hardware software co-design to develop the types of data science solutions that we will need now and in the future,” says Bader. “One of the attractions to research is my desire to solve real problems and global grand challenges where the work will have an impact on people in a way that makes their lives better or the world a safer place.”

Pioneering Data Analytics

Bader has had a lifelong interest in computing and parallel processing and has worked closely with many of the parallel computers over the last several decades. “Throughout my entire professional career, I have focused on data-intensive, highperformance computing applications,” shares Bader. “I explore how the architectural designs of today’s machines are savvier for solving data science, machine learning, and AI on massive scale data analytics.” Bader’s research group has pioneered high-performance data analytics for streaming graphs, where they review real-world observations and the interactions between them. “We explore interactions between people, places, and things,” explains Bader. “For example, the network traffic in health care may include patient records and hospital visits. We take these irregular, unstructured datasets with interactions and turn those relationships into the abstraction of a graph where the vertices represent the people, places, and things. The edges represent the interactions, which may have, for instance, timestamps, values, distances, or other attributes, and through this graph space, we then reason about the system.” The research group may also look at a social network and discover the emergence of a new community of interest. “We may examine the network flow or traffic in an organization and try to detect a cyber threat,” says Bader. “Or we may be working on areas such as tracking the pandemic spread of disease and making recommendations on the best ways to prevent further contamination.”

The Institute for Data Science

NJIT is making significant investments in technological research and development and the Institute for Data Science directly supports the University’s strategic initiatives of driving collaboration within the thriving tech ecosystem in New Jersey and surrounding areas. “The Institute is a research focus at NJIT that brings together three existing research centers: one in big data, a second in medical informatics, and a third in cybersecurity research,” explains Bader. “We are planning additional centers, including AI and machine learning and data sciences for the financial services sector. The Institute dissolves traditional boundaries and unites faculty, students, and staff across the entire organization to solve global grand challenges. To solve these problems, we need to bring a diverse set of people together with a variety of expertise and experience and NJIT provides a place for this collaboration in the heart of data science activity.”

In the year ahead, the Institute will host community workshops and speakers, including evening classes in data science for those wishing to gain more experience. “Recently, we had Chris Wiggins as a speaker, who is a professor at Columbia University and is the Chief Data Scientist of The New York Times,” says Bader. “We’ve had speakers from IBM, NVidia, and New York Presbyterian Hospital to share their knowledge and expertise, and we will have a distinguished lecture in March from Professor Vipin Kumar, of the University of Minnesota, who is one of the pioneers in the technique of data mining and data sciences.”

Bader says we are still at the early stages of understanding data science, in terms of the field’s usage and how to integrate emerging areas like machine learning and AI. “We are currently at a very exciting stage in data science and we must think about data holistically and how this information integrates into the world around us. We must ensure we look at data science not just as new technology, but explore how the field can affect our day-to-day lives.”

Connecting the Community

As a newly minted Research 1 institution, NJIT is at the cusp of growing their world-class research mission. Over eight hundred computing students graduate from NJIT each year, making the institution the largest producer of computing talent in the state. “Our new designation as an R1 school and the U.S. News & World Report ranking us among the top 100 schools, shows we are well on our way to being a premier institution,” says Bader. “Plus, the establishment of the Institute for Data Science is recognition of the strong researchers, faculty, and students that we have at NJIT and allows the University to continue to attract, recruit, and grow as an organization.”

Bader says to further build this momentum and broaden the impact of the research community as a whole, we need to keep developing consortiums and communication networks. “In a data-rich environment, the networks provide the connectivity of the researchers, the datasets, and the equipment that is critical to making progress and achieving success. I look towards Edge and their establishment of research networks in New Jersey for providing a backbone of support, high-speed data links between our organizations, and connectivity across the nation. This network is the differentiating factor that allows us to bring together the resources needed to solve the most data-intensive applications.”

As the Director, Bader’s vision for the Institute is to create a collaborative hub that reaches all of the faculty and students at NJIT who are using data in their research, teaching, and scholarship. “NJIT aims to produce the skilled career professionals that are needed in our community. I want to help solve the problems we face in Newark and in our surrounding areas so we have higher-quality lives, access to better medical care, safer organizations that are free from cyberattacks, and better entertainment systems. For the Institute to be a success, my goal is to continue to positively impact the community that surrounds us at NJIT and make tangible contributions to the quality of their lives.”

NJEdge EdgeDiscovery
Spring/Summer 2020


David A. Bader
Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Data Science

David A. Bader is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science at New Jersey Institute of Technology.