UALR: Analytics Center to Help Business Sift 'Big Data'

UALR: Analytics Center to Help Business Sift 'Big Data'
Mary Good, who will lead the new UALR George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center, speaks at a news conference on Monday. (Mauren Kennedy)

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Monday announced plans to establish the UALR George W. Donaghey Emerging Analytics Center.

The center, located on the fourth floor of UALR’s Engineering and Information Technology building, features data visualization systems that the university said "are among the first of their kind in the world."

The new center was made possible by a grant of more than $5 million from the George W. Donaghey Foundation. The center will be led by Mary Good, a nationally recognized scientist who serves as special advisor on economic development to UALR and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. 

Good is the founding dean of the College of Engineering and Information Technology. She retired as dean in June 2011.

Gov. Mike Beebe, UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson and representatives of AEDC announced the center at an event Monday morning at the EIT college.

A news release calls the announcement a "game changer" for the state. Good said "big data" provides the next frontier in discovery, business and society, as more data is produced, stored and analyzed.

"The EAC and its potential to positively impact on large and small businesses in Arkansas are critical to our state’s economic growth," Good said. "It will give all of us a competitive edge and position us for a bright future in the era of big data."

The center's systems were custom designed and built for UALR by Mechdyne Corp. of Marshalltown, Iowa, which makes visual information technologies. The center's aim is to provide visual data services for entites in the region. UALR said the center will serve a diverse group, including partners in business, sciences, health care, education and engineering.

On Monday, representatives from AEDC, Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Southwest Power Pool Inc. of Little Rock, and Nabholz Construction Services were set to demonstrate how data visualization can be used in their respective fields.

Beebe cited one example of the center's potential use: A neurosurgeon resident could practice drilling a hole in a three-dimensional model's head before actually performing the procedure on a real person.

The center also has development and promotional partnerships with Mechdyne, Hewlett-Packard and Today's Office. H-P has an operation in Conway.

Linked through fiber optics to UALR's Computational Research Center, the center boasts 35 screens and monitors with more than 50 million pixels offering high definition resolution for both 2D and 3D applications.

Other technology allows researchers to virtually "touch" and manipulate data and video collabortation tools that include robotic "telepresence" equipment. 

UALR said the $5 million grant will fund a full-time, post-doctoral staff member working in data science, two specialized graduate students, and technical and operational support personnel.

Also Monday, Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, introduced the center's new Data Science Advisory Board. The board is comprised of regional and national leaders from academia, industry and government working to provide ongoing input for the center.

Good said the center would be available for use by private companies, and a fee schedule for such use was being determined.

Named to the EAC Data Science Advisory Board were an array of national business leaders and researchers. Board members include Good as chair and:

  • Michael Armistead, U.S. Sales Manager, Public Sector Enterprise Group for HP in Conway
  • Nick Brown, president of Southwest Power Pool in Little Rock
  • Christopher Clover, CEO of Mechdyne
  • Carolina Cruz-Neira, William Hansen Hall BOR Superchair in Telecommunications, Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and co-inventor of the Computer Automatic Virtual Environment
  • Mike Hodapp, director of e-commerce and digital marketing for Dillard's
  • Debbie Gracio, Director for the Computational and Statistical Analytics Division in National Security for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility in Richland, Wash.
  • David Hollenbach, president and CEO of DSoft Technology of Colorado Springs
  • Charlie Lambert, preident of SkySentry of Falcon, Col. and the former commander of the 314th Support Group and vice commander of the 314th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base
  • Melinda Montgomery, transmission planning, Entergy Arkansas
  • Phil Mui, chief product and engineering officer for Acxiom
  • Glenn Pait, director of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute at UAMS, director of the UAMS Center for the Athletic and Aging Spine and professor in the UAMS Department of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery
  • William Raduchel, a strategic advisor to DMGT and Naspers Ltd., a director at Silicon Image, ePals, LiveIntent and Virident, and an instructor of corporate strategy at the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
  • William Slikker, director of the Food & Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research at Jefferson
  • AEDC director Grant Tennille
  • Henry Tufo, director of the Computational Science Center at the University of Colorado, a fill professor in the Department of Computer Science at UC, and a faculty member at the school's Department of Applied Mathematics.