Interview with Lisa Singh on the Massive Data Institute

Did you know that Georgetown is home to a Massive Data Institute? Here's a Q&A with Lisa Singh, Professor in the Department of Computer Science and MDI Research Professor.

Massive Data Institute Logo with photo of Lisa Singh






What is the Massive Data Institute? What kinds of data does MDI work with? 

MDI is an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of high-dimensional data to answer public policy questions. MDI houses a community of social and computational scientists interested in using data from novel, often real-time sources like the Internet, social media, sensors and other big data sources and blending them with more traditional large data sources like government surveys ​to increase our understanding of society and human behavior, and thus improve public policy decision-making. We also have concentration areas in big data privacy and ethics, and using big data for the social good.

How can students work with and utilize MDI?

Students can work on research projects with faculty affiliated with MDI. MDI is also rolling out an MDI Scholars program that pairs students with faculty to help faculty with research questions that incorporate different forms of data. 

How can faculty work with and utilize MDI?

MDI has seed grants that can be used to work on early stage, interdisciplinary projects that make use of large data sets. We also have a cloud infrastructure that faculty can access to run simulations and process data efficiently. Finally, we have a data seminar series that helps train faculty and students in methods useful for working with large-scale data. To date, we have hosted Data Analysis in Python, Large-scale Climate Data, and Networks. 

If there was one thing that your could share with the GU community about MDI, what would that be?

We live in a world with complex problems. Those problems need to be tackled by researchers in lots of disciplines with lots of different research experiences with as many different forms of available data if we are going to identify meaningful, longterm solutions. MDI is designed to help faculty and students develop and harness those research communities. We are in startup mode because we are so new - I am excited to help establish MDI as a hub for high dimensional data driven research that impacts public policy.

How do you envision MDI and the Library collaborating to maximize the impact of these services for our faculty and students?

We can work together to host different data and visualization seminars. We can also understand how we can leverage different types of publications to understand human and societal behavior more rapidly.

What are MDI’s aspirations for the next 2-3 years?

Hmmm - this is a tough one. We hope to build a vibrant research community that is undertaking research to help impact pubic policy, not only in the US, but globally.