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        Investment in Harbert College's Business Analytics Lab paying dividends

        January 24, 2021 By Joe McAdory

        All News

         

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        Located on the ground floor of Lowder Hall, the Business Analytics Lab houses 19 computers poised to analyze data sets and convert this into real-time information that can be applied to problem-solving.


        The Business Analytics program's continued growth would not be possible without the support of The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

        The Harbert College is dedicated to providing relevant, forward-looking, and engaging curricula, instruction and high-impact experiential learning opportunities.

        Did you know that researchers in Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business are using powerful computer systems and algorithms to detect cancer modules and predict heart transplant survival rates? Did you know they are also using analytic approaches to predict concussions, sports injuries and occupational injury risk? Did you know they are even are assessing the quality of information found in social media networks and news outlets? Did you know they are working to identify ways to improve trust in self-driving cars?

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        Each computer in the Business Analytics Lab is a graphical processing unit and far more capable than the average PC.


        How? Computers. Powerful computers within Harbert College’s Business Analytics Lab, where students and faculty can work together to uncover data and provide potential solutions to problems that impact organizations and lives.

        These studies, and more, have been made possible by the continuous support of The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama toward the college’s growing Business Analytics program, via infrastructure and curriculum.

        “We needed to attract strong faculty, but those faculty were going to want a good place to do their research,” said Dr. David Paradice, Harbert Eminent Scholar in Information Systems and Analytics, who served as Department Chair for Systems and Technology at the Harbert College of Business from 2015-2020. “Faculty needed the computing power to support what they’re being asked to do. It all fits together.

        “It’s a virtuous cycle because each piece feeds the next piece. If you develop strong, reputable research, then your educators take this research into the classrooms. Through faculty and graduate student research, our students are very attractive to organizations. These organizations are going to want to hire people that have insight into the future.”

        Located on the ground floor of Lowder Hall, the Business Analytics Lab houses 19 computers poised to analyze data sets and convert this into real-time information that can be applied to problem-solving. But these aren’t just any old PCs.

        “This lab is not designed for anybody just doing word processing,” said Dr. Ashish Gupta, Associate Professor of Analytics at the Harbert College, who designed the lab and directs multiple research projects within its confines. “Each computer is a graphical processing unit (GPU), which is unlike the typical computer that you would buy. These are very expensive machines. These computers can do a lot of number-crunching as stand-alone machines, but we can also use a large high performance computing cluster  for the heavy duty work that require more processing such as image recognition, text mining on large corpus, etc. 

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        Students in Harbert College's Business Analytics Lab work with Homeland Security and health-related data and are better prepared for industry after graduation.


        “These computers, and the information they help provide, using business analytics techniques, give students a completely different mindset in terms of how they look at problems, whether it’s information related to Homeland Security, analytics approaches for sports injuries, or studying health conditions such as heart transplant survival rate or cancer nodule detection. “The skills we provide our students in this program are very timely, given the interactions we have with industry. Our students are prepared handsomely and industries are very interested in those students.”

        Where is the future of Harbert College’s Business Analytics program headed? Dr. Uzma Raja, Systems and Technology Department Chair at the Harbert College, envisions taking research further with the creation of the college’s Business Analytics Research Center for Excellence.

        “We hope to utilize the center for promoting data-driven research and outreach activities,” said Raja. “We plan to incorporate projects at both undergraduate and graduate levels that will prepare our students for tackling complex data centric problems.

        "With continued support of our alumni and corporate partners, our faculty and students will work with real datasets and solve problems using cutting edge tools and technology. We hope to engage in projects that not only solve efficiency and productivity problems but also uplift the communities around us. Several new initiatives related to student recruitment, retention and placement are in works to make the program a leader in impact and inclusion.”

        Paradice, who believes Auburn Business Analytics graduates can compete with students across the nation, relishes the growth of the program, the promise the Business Analytics Lab offers, and the dream of establishing the Research Center for Excellence. He knows the program’s continued growth would not be possible without the support of The Caring Foundation.

        “We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without them,” he added.

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