NJIT Hosts Big Data Alliance Symposium with Focus on Education
Written by: Evan Koblentz
NJIT hosted the ninth New Jersey Big Data Alliance Symposium, bringing together nearly 200 experts from academia, government and industry to share ideas about the present state and future trends of their field.
Attendees represented a gamut of careers, not just programmers, which the panelists said indicates that the importance of artificial intelligence, data science and machine learning applies to nearly all aspects of life in the 21st century. Many students were also present.
Distinguished Professor David Bader, director of NJIT’s Institute for Data Science, chaired the symposium. Atam Dhawan, senior vice provost for research, said in a welcome session that data science is a major enabler of future technology innovation and its wider role in society. “I’m a very strong believer in the enablers of technology … addressing not only the global challenges but addressing the needs of the society,” he said.
Keynote speakers Stephen Ezell, vice president of global information policy for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Florence Hudson, executive director of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub, both drove home the point.
Ezell talked about the state of teaching computer science. He said digital skills aren’t being taught equitably across the United States, and that it’s wrong to assume artificially intelligent systems will take over jobs. He recommended that educators continue pushing for more opportunities going to females, computer science should count as a high school science credit, more STEM charter schools are needed and tax credits should be provided for employer tuition payments.
Hudson spotlighted student resources available from her organization. There’s the National Student Data Corps, which she said is growing even internationally. Several colleges formed chapters and Hudson indicated that she’d like to work with the existing NJIT Data Science Club as a possible new chapter. Her group also provides Slack-based student mentoring and even data science comic books for K-12 students. The group also strives to keep minorities and people of color as 50% of its leadership.
In an afternoon panel discussion, Loralyn Mears of soft skills academy SteerUs said that data science can be used to help evaluate social and personal issues, not just technical ones. Mukesh Dalal, chief AI officer at Stanley Black & Decker, assured attendees that the positives of artificial intelligence and machine learning outweigh the negatives, even if the negatives get more attention.
Research track sessions focused on using data science to address topics such as climate change risks, gender bias in natural language processing and stock markets in developing nations.
“Data science is an exciting, new discipline focused on solving real-world problems from protecting business from novel cyberattacks to predicting solar activity that could disrupt our communication systems,” Bader said, noting the success of the university’s newly created data science department within Ying Wu College of Computing.