Bogdan Vernescu, wearing brown glasses, a dark blue suit jacket, white button-down shirt, and red and white striped tie, sits at a desk and is in mid-discussion.

Vernescu at Brazilian Industry Innovation Summit

WPI's vice provost for research Bogdan Vernescu to speak at the 7th Brazilian Industry Innovation Summit as part of the United States delegation

June 26, 2017
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As the world grapples with technology's continuing advancement and the resulting mountains of data being produced, WPI continues to forge a path to train the next generation of scientists how to produce, understand, decipher, and use data.

Vice provost for research Bogdan Vernescu is in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this week attending and speaking at the 7th Brazilian Industry Innovation Summit as part of the United States delegation.

The summit is sponsored by the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI) and brings together academic, government, and industry leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges and potential solutions surrounding big data. According to the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils, “the agenda will cover topics such as mega trends in innovation, advanced manufacturing, the future of workforce, advanced technologies, and policy frameworks for innovation—in Brazil and around the globe.”

Bogdan Vernescu

Vernescu will participate in a June 27 panel session, “Big data as a strategy to gain new markets,” moderated by Rodrigo Kede Lima, general manager of IBM Latin America. Vernescu has a treasure trove of information to discuss, given WPI's successful launch of a data science program.

“I am interested in everything that will happen at the summit,” says Vernescu. “It's always good to know about the next interesting things.” From hearing about the significant growth of big data globally to learning about potential partnerships with Brazilian universities and industries, the summit offers a singular focus on an especially broad topic.

“I plan to talk about WPI and how we developed our data science and data analytics program,” he says. Vernescu, who was head of the Department of Mathematical Sciences when data science first emerged, says WPI's continuing broad approach to data science is essential. “There's lots of computer science and math, but you need to understand the business,” he says. “You can analyze the data set but you need to know the business to understand what questions to ask.”

Vernescu has not attended this conference before, but WPI has an established relationship with the Council on Competitiveness (CoC), a leadership group that brings together CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors to focus on the continued advancement of the US economy. CoC is a US partner with CNI—President Leshin is a member.

He also sees the summit as an opportunity to spread the word about WPI's success and understand new developments that will help WPI's research, faculty members, and students.

“We can position our students to understand the challenges and to take advantage of opportunities to increase our research or to understand what larger companies are working on,” he says. And as WPI continues to incorporate an entrepreneurial mindset into the undergraduate and graduate curriculum and campus activities, an innovative field like big data helps students and researchers see how the smallest connections can make huge impacts.

“Big data can improve lives and can improve the way we do business. It can make companies more profitable and make cities more livable. Huge amounts of data can tell us lots of things if we can mine it properly.” -Bogdan Vernescu

Data science, he says, is a quickly growing field, but one without enough trained scientists who can expertly understand the voluminous data. “The challenge is that everybody has data but people don't know what to do with it,” he says. Industries are collecting data everywhere, says Vernescu, from the clicks of online consumers to the traffic routes of cars. But all that data is meaningless unless scientists know how to read the data and look for relevant patterns to reveal information.

“The message everybody will have to address is that we can build new industries from analyzing big data,” he says. “It's a new field, but it can optimize the way we do business.” Vernescu is looking forward to hearing how others are approaching the big data challenges and to seeing what additional potential the field holds.

The summit will tie in all the pieces of big data—who produces it, what is collected, how it is used, and how schools can effectively train a new generation of scientists to make sense of it. “Big data can improve lives and can improve the way we do business,” says Vernescu. “It can make companies more profitable and make cities more livable. Huge amounts of data can tell us lots of things if we can mine it properly.”

- By Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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