Wilkinson wins large grant for large data research

Kerk Kee

Kerk Kee

Kerk Kee, assistant professor of communication studies, recently received a $324,981 grant from the National Science Foundation for a research project that will investigate how scientists develop technologies for large data processing.

The grant is the largest ever given to Wilkinson College, Kee said.

Kee said the project will attempt to answer three questions: first, how computer scientists develop custom-made big data tools, second, how they employ multiple technologies to collaborate virtually with other scientists from across the world, and third, how to better understand the beginning of a development software, which would show what makes a new product catch on beyond the inception point.

Kee said he believes this project, titled “Computational Tools,Virtual Organizing, and Innovation Diffusing,” is forward-thinking.

When Kee submitted it last January to apply for the grant, it was about 50 pages long and described the problem, place, and how it will be carried out to improve the situation with scientific large data processing.

Kee has three years, until the end of August 2016, to finish the research. Most of the money will be spent on interviews and research, and Kee will have four Chapman students, one graduate and three undergraduates, as his assistants on this project.

“As part of our research I will be flying two of my students to Denver next month to attend a super computing where we will be interviewing scientist users and developers,” Kee said. “There will be more trips in July to Atlanta.”

Sherri Verdugo, the graduate assistant on the project, said that she will be a bridge between the technical and the communication sectors.

“Primarily, I am focused on interdisciplinary techniques that are fostered here at Chapman,” she wrote in an email.

Brett Robertson, senior communication studies major, joined the project after he took a research methods course with Kee. He was recruited to do an independent study to continue the main research project from his previous course. Robertson said this project touches on multiple layers of science.

“I think the project, while strongly rooted in the ‘hard’ and computational sciences, actually has major implications for the social science discipline, hence why a communication studies professor is studying big data computer systems and those who use them,” Robertson wrote in an email. “While the project is technical, the conclusions that this specific project brings can be applied almost anywhere.”

Megan Mogannam, senior communication studies and Spanish double major, said she became a member of the team also after she also took research methods with Kee and signed up for an independent study class. She considers this project to be important to the world of communication tools.

“Becoming exposed to all these different fields is so exciting and it’s even better that Dr. Kee has created this project with altruistic intentions,” Mogannam wrote in an email. “He emphasized to us since day one that we are going to be making a big impact on not only the world of research, but also truly helping scientists and technologists in terms of the development and usage of their computational tools.”

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