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Professors Jeffrey Popyack and William Mongan Receive IBM Award for Big Data and Analytics Project

August 16, 2013

Jeffrey Popyack and William MonganDr. Jeffrey Popyack, associate professor of computer science, and William Mongan, associate teaching professor of computer science, received a $10,000 grant from IBM’s 2013 Big Data and Analytics Faculty Awards program to develop the computer science undergraduate curriculum and enhance a summer research institute through the use of IBM software, tools and professional collaboration.

There is a growing need in the marketplace for leaders who are skilled in analytics. Students entering the workforce need to turn Big Data into strategic decisions and college and university curricula must reflect these ever-evolving technological demands.

With this in mind, Popyack and Mongan aim to actively develop Drexel University’s undergraduate Computer Systems and Artificial Intelligence courses, which will impact all CS majors. By incorporating IBM’s frameworks, Amazon S3, Hadoop, InfoSphere BigInsights and MapReduce into the standard curriculum, these courses will target more big data, machine learning, parallelism and scalability topics.

"Big Data is a game-changer in so many ways, requiring new approaches and new ways of thinking about problems we thought were already solved, in addition to things we never imagined possible,” Popyack said. “Working this into the curriculum requires some heavy-duty software and access to massive amounts of data and computing power. It is very timely for IBM to provide this opportunity to work with their cutting-edge tools."

Popyack and Mongan are also directors of an NSF-funded, three-year summer research institute for STEM high school and two-year college faculty called Research Experiences for Teachers in Machine Learning, Big Data and Computer Science Principles (REThink). Research fellows will collaborate with select faculty in the CS department on projects focusing on big data and machine learning themes.

The goal of the institute is to educate the teachers on how to incorporate these concepts, as well as CS Principles, into high school and community college curricula, which benefits the students by increasing awareness and enjoyment of STEM disciplines for future educational pursuits. The experiences Popyack and Mongan gain through the undergraduate curriculum development will be introduced directly to the research fellows, faculty and graduate assistants involved with the REThink project in their respective labs.

Popyack also wants to collaborate with IBM representatives throughout the course implementation and research institute, such as inviting IBM researchers for guest lectures, workshops and tutorials with current students and faculty to showcase the work done at the company.

"We're anxious to draw on the experiences and perspectives that IBM can provide," Popyack said. “The experience Drexel CS majors will gain will better equip them for co-op and career employment.”

The Faculty Awards are a part of the IBM University Awards, which supports basic research, curriculum innovation, and educational assistance in focus areas that are fundamental to innovation in the 21st Century and strategic to IBM's core business. To learn more about the IBM Faculty Awards, please click here.

Learn about IBM’s Big Data partnership with more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the world here. View the infographic featuring the skills students need to succeed in Big Data and analytics careers here. For more information about IBM and Big Data and analytics, please click here.

Julie Fisher
Publicity and Outreach Coordinator
Department of Computer Science