Professor and student team develops flexible, free alternative to proprietary data analytics software

Dr. Thomas Liu & Monty Bains

Fifteen years ago people could not imagine the capabilities they would soon have through the Internet and supporting programs. The evolution of web technology moves at such a fast pace that most people focus on keeping pace with the technology, rather than look ahead to what might be next.

However for one professor and student team, developing future programs in the field of computer science is a daily challenge. Dr. Thomas Liu and Monty Bains are using this summer to create a Web service and network framework for data analysis and visualization as a part of the Department of Homeland Security Summer Research Team Program for Minority Serving Institutions. The program, which is administered for DHS by Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, is designed to increase and enhance the scientific leadership at Minority Serving Institutions in research areas that support the mission and goals of DHS.

The team, located at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., is focusing on computer science research to establish a web service that allows the homeland security community to access network and visualization tools across platforms and physical locations. Ideally, the outcome would be a program that would not only serve the research community but also connect and include educational institutions and DHS.

There is a great need for the type of program which Dr. Liu and Bains are developing. Graphical representation of data is significant to almost all organizations, and it can be tedious and time consuming to study data without any form of graphical representation. The team's research goal is to open a new way of using data visualization tools and data analysis software through the Internet.

The developed software would also be more than just a free tool for clients to use. Instead, clients would have the ability to generate their own graphs, diagrams and analysis based on their specific needs. This type of freedom would make the program beneficial to a broad range of organizations.

Dr. Liu, who holds degrees in chemical engineering, computer science and materials engineering, brings a well-rounded approach to the study of computer science. Through his summer research he hopes to expand his knowledge on the capacity of software to facilitate different kinds of data analysis for areas such as natural science, social science and statistics.

When asked how his experience in the program is beneficial, Liu said, “This summer’s research is not only enriching my knowledge of computer science and giving me the opportunity for professional experience, but is also opening a new channel for me to teach and lead undergraduate students to conduct similar research and experiments.”

Bains’ experience in the program also has provided him skills for his future. “I have learned the whole concept of Web services, which is very practical in terms of working in any computer industry. My experience with this program has motivated me to pursue advanced studies in computer science,” he explained.