Data Empowerment

SMU: Data Empowered

SMU’s data-empowered faculty and students deploy research as a force for good in a relentless quest for solutions with lasting impact.

In collaboration with industry, nonprofit organizations and other institutions, our researchers forge paths to results that can be applied ethically on a local, national and global scale. Powered by the vast potential of data science and high-speed computing, they unlock new insights about critical problems. SMU researchers transform these discoveries into economic opportunities, stronger communities and a better world.

Tomorrow starts in Big D

Dallas is a city in a hurry, taking its place as a global business and knowledge center. Major corporations recognize that Dallas has a stake in the tech-driven future – SMU has skin in this game.

As a 21st century data-empowered university that actively seeks solutions to societal problems through interdisciplinary collaborations, SMU currently offers 13 graduate programs in data science, including an online master's degree, and is powered by ManeFrame II. This high-speed supercomputer – one of the most powerful supercomputers in North American higher education – is completely accessible with no waiting to SMU students and faculty, as well as to research partners outside the University. It's why SMU has more per capita shared computing resources (both in terms of faculty and students) than any other university in Texas.

Data-crunching power accelerates SMU research

Simply put, a university that offers the ability to complete research in any discipline faster, without long wait times for processing data, has a distinct advantage. It’s like the difference between idling in a traffic jam and whipping over into the HOV lane. For example, SMU biology professor John Wise can run a million jobs at a time on ManeFrame II as he searches – successfully – to identify the most likely chemical compounds to stop chemotherapy failures in cancer patients.

Why SMU takes on ambitious challenges

SMU's investments are investments in Dallas' future, too, as we research the toughest questions facing our city and the world – questions like how to mitigate the potential for human-induced earthquakes, how to protect our personal information and finances from being hacked and how to stop a patient's body from blocking the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

An active research climate inevitably creates business opportunities that drive the economic growth of the entire region. At SMU, we know that the ability to find meaning in numbers – the heart of data analysis – is the key to the future across every discipline we teach and research. We are ready to apply our data horsepower to the problems confronting our community and its business partners, broadening our impact for both our students and the Dallas region.

The Data-Driven Research Advantage Is Campuswide

Professor Jo Guldi using big data on history

SMU History Professor Jo Guldi proposes that historians embrace new technology as the key to analyzing the grand scope of history in ways that were not possible before. Supercomputing capable of sorting daunting amounts of data encourages scholars to synthesize information in new ways, seeing things that do not emerge in the close examination of single decades. Learn more.

Brain scan

Meadows School of the Arts Assistant Professor Zachary Wallmark is discovering that high-empathy and low-empathy people share a lot in common when listening to music. In a joint research study with UCLA, he is using the power of ManeFrame II to process the data to discover more about how highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain’s social circuitry. Learn more.

Dedman College biologist Dr. John Wise is finding new hope for cancer through the study of a molecular “sump pump” that triggers chemotherapy failure.  He screened 15 million drug interactions through ManeFrame II resulting in the discovery of three compounds that reverse chemotherapy resistance in culture. His innovative partnership with SMU Guildhall puts Minecraft enthusiasts to work simulating drug interactions through a specially designed video game. Learn more.

Dedman College seismologist Dr. Heather DeShon and her research group use ManeFrame II to process continuous recordings of ground motion and perform large-scale earthquake correlations. Uses include studying earthquakes in North Texas and the central U.S. that may be related to oil and gas operations, conducting subsurface imaging of faults, and studies of aftershock sequences. Learn more.

Meadows School of the Arts student Eskinder Abebe uses art, coding, design and the humanities to help create real-world products. Through his major in Creative Computing, the recent Ethiopian émigré (who transferred from Richland College) prototyped an inexpensive computer case as part of a project to develop a $30 tablet computer for SMU’s Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity. Learn more.

Lyle school engineer Dr. Barbara Minsker uses data to address complex problems tied to concrete urbanization, such as the kind of flooding recently experienced from Hurricane Harvey, green storm water infrastructure design, integrated water cycle engineering, combined sewer overflows, floods and droughts. Learn More

Simmons School Director of Evaluation Dr. Annie Wright is a community psychologist managing the education school’s research projects with community-based providers like Big Thought, Dallas After School and DISD. She uses emerging data and evidence to find out what programs actually work in improving students’ academic outcomes – a digital advantage that takes the guesswork out of cause and effect. Learn More

Dr. Zannie Voss in the Meadows School of the Arts is the director of NCAR – SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, where a free, online diagnostic dashboard helps arts organizations both big and small measure their financial and operating results against similar organizations. NCAR’s research is about survival in a competitive, under-funded world, sharing evidence-based insights (data) into factors that drive arts opportunities, attendance and philanthropy. Learn more.

Dr. Ira Greenberg has a joint appointment with the Lyle School of Engineering and the Meadows School of the Arts, using his background in studio arts and computer science to direct SMU’s Center of Creative Computation. His students learn to use technology to create 2D and 3D works of art, augmented performance, intelligent physical spaces and real-time interactivity – skills used for museum exhibits, scientific data research and even television commercials. He is building a new 3D Graphics Library, called Protobyte, for developing artificial life forms. Learn more about the Center of Creative Computation.

Lyle School engineer Dr. Suku Nair, executive director of the AT&T Center for Virtualization at SMU, is leading technical research that likely makes a difference in the lives of North Texans every time they download a video or place a secure phone call. Virtualization is the creation of devices and machines that have no real, physical existence apart from their existence created or simulated by software. Learn more.