Congratulations to DAC spring and summer graduates!

DAC Ph.D. graduate Parang Saraf and his daughter Diya Saraf

Virginia Tech graduates celebrating their achievements this spring include two    Ph.D. students and three master’s students at the Discovery Analytics Center.

Two Ph.D. students and one master’s student are planning to celebrate the completion of their degrees during the summer.

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DAC Student Spotlight: Lata Kodali

Lata Kodali, DAC Ph.D. student in statistics

Lata Kodali looks at statistics as a great bridge between theory and application.

“It is  also a field that is applicable in a broad spectrum,” she said,  “and right now I see myself working in an industry position with a focus on research and design that also encourages creativity.”

Kodali has a bachelor’s degree from Carson-Newman University and a master’s degree from Wake Forest University, both in mathematics. Prior to her Ph.D. work, most of her experience was theoretical rather than applied.

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Virginia Tech graduate students team up with D.C. transit to help enhance customer service

UrbComp students Bryse Flowers (left) and Farnaz Khaghani were on the student team working with WMATA. Behind them is Brian Mayer, project manager and research scientist at the Discovery Analytics Center, who oversaw the study.

Last fall, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) struck a partnership with Virginia Tech’s graduate program in urban computing for help in predicting its system’s on-time performance (OTP).

The resulting study, by a team of students enrolled in Introduction to Urban Computing, a computer science course in the UrbComp certificate program administered by the Discovery Analytics Center, is one of the first steps in connecting WMATA’s Rush Hour Promise — initiated in January 2018 to provide a refund to any customer delayed by 15 minutes or more during rush hour — to underlying service disruptions, according to Jordan Holt, senior performance analyst at WMATA.  Click here to read more about the collaboration.

DAC Student Spotlight: Michelle Dowling

Michelle Dowling, DAC Ph.D. student in computer science

The desire to combine psychology with her knowledge and expertise in computer science in an interesting and challenging way drew Michelle Dowling toward her current research in human-computer interaction (HCI). This area of study allows her to focus on the cognitive (human) side of research rather than just on programming and computer science.

While exploring graduate program opportunities at Virginia Tech, Dowling, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Grand Valley State University, met DAC Associate Director Chris North. North introduced her to his research in information visualization and interactive data analytics tools. “I felt it was a perfect fit and decided to join Dr. North in his InfoVis Lab,” Dowling said.

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DAC Student Spotlight: Tian Shi

Tian Shi, DAC Ph.D. student in computer science

When Chandan Reddy, associate professor in computer science, joined the DAC faculty in the National Capital Region in August 2016, one of his Ph.D. students, Tian Shi, moved right along with him.

“I feel very lucky to be Dr. Reddy’s student. He has helped me very much in both my research and life,” said Shi.

A Ph.D. in computer science will be the second Ph.D. for Shi.  His first, from Wayne State, is in physical chemistry.

Shi’s research was in theoretical and computational chemistry built upon quantum mechanics, statistical physics, and ab initio calculations. Various projects led him to computer science, where he found an interest in data mining, machine learning, and data visualization. Continue reading…

Focus on Alex Endert…..a DAC alumnus interview

Alex Endert, DAC Ph.D. alumnus and an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech

While a student at DAC, Alex Endert (Ph.D. computer science 2012) worked with his advisor Chris North on a user interaction technique for visual analytics (semantic interaction) that helped adjust analytic models by computing on simple, well-understood interactions. For example, by highlighting a phrase of text or grouping a pile of documents adjusts underlying algorithms they can help people without data science training make sense of large amounts of text quickly. This line of research ultimately led to Endert’s dissertation, and grounds much of his research today.

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DAC Student Spotlight: Yue Ning

Yue Ning, DAC Ph.D. student in computer science

“Working in data science and machine learning is exciting, but it is even more exciting when science helps us solve real-world challenges,” said Yue Ning, a Ph.D. student in the computer science department.

The opportunity to be involved in high impact research drew Ning to Virginia Tech and DAC. “I am fortunate and honored to be working with Dr. Naren Ramakrishnan, who is one of the leading researchers in data analytics and applied machine learning,” she said.

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Tanu Mitra awarded NSF grant to study how people relate to online news

Tanushree Mitra, DAC faculty member and assistant professor of CS

Tanushree (Tanu) Mitra, an assistant professor of computer science and a DAC faculty member, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation supported by the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems to lead a study that will use social computing and human-centered approaches to better understand the relationship between people and technology in the context of online news.

“The aim is to provide new perspectives that address digital misinformation by focusing on how we can establish differences between mainstream sources and misleading sources of online news and how we can nudge people to be more careful and conscious consumers of online news,” said Mitra.

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Research teams led by junior faculty win seed funding for new projects

Tanushree Mitra, DAC faculty member and assistant professor of CS

Congratulations to Tanushree Mitra, a winner in the latest round of Junior Faculty Awards from the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

Mitra, a faculty member at the Discovery Analytics Center and assistant professor in the Virginia Tech – Department of Computer Science, will lead, with James Hawdon at the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, a study on the language of online extremism: Computational models for discovery and analysis of framing around extremists’ narratives. Click here to read more about Mitra’s award.

DAC Student Spotlight: Raja Phanindra Chava

“You have to work every day at being the best you can be. It is a project that is never-ending.”

These are Raja Phanindra Chava’s own words — and his inspiration —  as he pursues an M.S. in computer engineering.

“I believe that learning is a constant process throughout life to achieve excellence,” said Chava, “and it is my primary driving force.”



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