Big Data

A&T Receives $3 Million NSF Grant to Study Food Aid Supply Chains Using Big Data Analytics

Principal Investigator Dr. Lauren Davis and her cross-disciplinary team have secured a five-year, $3 million grant through the National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship (NRT) Program. The NRT grant will support food insecurity research in a project called Improving Strategies for Hunger Relief and Food Security Using Computational Data Science. In addition to Dr. Davis, the research grant involves four additional Co-Principal Investigators, Dr. Seong-Tae Kim, Dr. Kenrett Jefferson-Moore, Dr. Steven Jiang and Dr. Albert Esterline. The team represents talent and expertise across three N.C. A&T Colleges: the College of Engineering, the College of Science and Technology, and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Food insecurity occurs when individuals have limited access to safe and nutritious food. To address this issue, humanitarian organizations work collaboratively with government and the private sector, relying on uncertain sources of supply, responding to uneven and variable needs, and making decisions regarding scarce resources. In this process, data is generated on a massive scale concerning food supply, distribution and need. This NRT grant will develop an innovative, interdisciplinary training model in data science designed to grow the workforce that will help these organizations better analyze their efforts and improve the provision of food aid at the local, state, and federal level.

“Until now, no formal training existed to help students acquire the interdisciplinary knowledge needed to derive insight from big data generated by the food aid supply chain,” explains Dr. Davis. “This research will use data from the domestic humanitarian hunger relief supply chain as the basis for an innovative, evidence-based, scalable approach to training the future

workforce.” The grant will provide a unique and comprehensive training experience for a total of 50 masters and doctoral students, including 45 funded trainees, by combining disciplines in industrial and systems engineering, computer science, mathematics, agricultural economics, sociology, and public policy.

The NRT Program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas, through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs. NSF’s mission is to advance the progress of science, a mission accomplished by funding proposals for research and education made by scientists, engineers, and educators from across the country.

Mainframe Computers: A Thing of the Present at A&T

seaycameron-1The Division of Research and Economic Development at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in conjunction with Lead Principal Investigator Dr. Cameron Seay in the College of Science and Technology, announces it has secured a federal contract through the U.S. Department of Labor. The five-year contract, with a value of $7.5 million, will commence in late October 2016 with the goal of increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields. The contract will focus specifically on information technology as it relates to talent development for mainframe computers, on which the global economy depends.

IBM, a key collaborator in the grant proposal and apprenticeship program, has pioneered the mainframe through various innovations over the past decades. As the demand for mainframe skills remains high, grants like this that pair technology experts and educators are key to providing the talent to keep these essential systems on the leading edge of business innovation.

“As enterprise IT grows in complexity, businesses are finding it increasingly challenging to find mainframe talent to meet their most critical needs,” said Dr. Seay. “Fortunately, N.C. A&T has retained a robust and growing technology education and training program in this area and a network of committed partners to lend their expertise, and we’re ready to step up for the Department of Labor, the corporate entities, and indeed the world economy which relies so heavily on this important technology.”

This contract has been named The LEAD-IT Project, which stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Apprenticeship, and Diversity in Information Technology. The five-year project, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, will involve seven N.C. A&T faculty, including Drs. Gina Bullock, Maya Corneille, Loury Floyd, Karen Jackson, Anna Lee, Evelyn Sowells and Seay as well as three full time graduate students for the full five years. The contract will be completed in several phases supporting impactful outreach activities including the events and training necessary to rapidly fill a pipeline of mainframe computing talent.

Seay has been nurturing the university’s relationship with the Department of Labor for several years, with assistance from N.C. A&T Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Dr. Barry Burks.

“Pursuing an opportunity of this magnitude has put our cross-disciplinary research strengths on display,” said Burks. “The resources and expertise across our Departments of Computer Systems Technology, Psychology and Education were all brought to bear on securing this project, and it’s an honor to serve the Department of Labor’s workforce development interests and to position our graduates to fill these high-paying, high-demand jobs in the IT industry. Although N.C. A&T is the lead institution on this project, we have assembled a strong team of collaborators including industry leaders and community service organizations.”

Additional collaborators include the IBM Corporation, SHARE Association, IT-oLogy, Mobile Collaborative Education Consulting, Vets in Tech, Indiana University – Minority Serving Institution STEM Initiative, Mentor Services and Capital Area Workforce Development Board.