From the editor:

Data based

July 24, 2019

I love technology; I really do. Life is so much easier when you’re carrying around a small computer in your pocket that can also make phone calls. You can get any question answered with a simple search on your phone wherever you are. Heck, you don’t even have to type anymore – simply ask Siri. You can manage your lights, order groceries, message your friends, pay for products, get directions, track your health, play games, create photo galleries, learn a language, read books…the list goes on and on. And those are just the things our phones can do. 

But, as much as I love it, it also freaks me out sometimes. I remember the first time my watch buzzed to tell me that it was 12 minutes to work. How did it know I was going to work? On the weekends it would tell me how long to the gym. It learned when I was making trips to see my dad and would tell me the route to take. Search for something and you’ll start receiving ads. Even saying something triggers your phone to serve up specific content. It all comes from the data that is being collected all the time.

In fact, I’m told about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day around the world. I can’t even fathom what that really means. While I doubt much of the data I create is useful to anyone other than companies trying to sell me something, big data can be the key to solving some of the world’s difficult problems.

And, because Spartans are determined to solve those problems, of course, they’re working every day with big data. A unique collaborative environment brings together biologists, engineers, astronomers and mathematicians as well as undergrads and grad students in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering. They’re using big data to study origins of matter, predict earthquakes, study diseases and so much more. Check out the short video in the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Using big data, to learn more about this innovative department and the real-world applications of their work.

F. William Ravlin, a professor of entomology, is using the quieter pace of summer to collect data on the great golden digger wasps on campus. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: Insects — friend or foe? to learn about these harmless insects and why insect populations matter to the rest of the world.

I’m guessing Anastasiya Lavell, a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has sifted through plenty of data in her career. Lavell, who was honored recently for her achievements as a graduate teaching assistant by the College of Natural Sciences, discovered that her teaching commitment is just as important as her research. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Intentional teaching, to learn more about her work here and how learning in the U.S. differs from what she experienced in Soviet Ukraine.

I’m not solving complicated world problems, but I do rely on data every day in my job. Most jobs require some sort of examination of data — even if it’s not the super important big data that Spartan researchers are dealing with. I wasn’t ever the best with numbers (don’t ask me how I fared in Math 111), but what I do know is that all the data I know about Spartans is that together they add up to an incredible force that is literally changing the world for the better. #SpartansWill.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone