Big Data Research

Finding Solutions to Big Problems Through Big Data Analytics    

Mason’s researchers are busy inventing systems that organize, analyze, and learn from complex fields of information. These applications and systems are helping with everything from national security and defense to health care and education. Our engineers are designing products and technologies that could help our military outsmart the enemy. We are building tools for teachers to accurately measure learning styles and build lessons that stick. Our labs  prepare predictive models that can help emergency personnel manage a disease outbreak. Every day, our researchers are finding new ways to deploy big data solutions to the world’s toughest challenges.


Tweet Data Mining Tool Could Help Emergency Responders

Combining data mining with social media could lead to better and faster emergency response to such devastating crisis situations as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. Information sciences and technology assistant professor Hemant Purohit studies human behavior on the web and leads Mason’s Humanitarian and Social Informatics Lab.

Purohit will be working with the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department and a social media working group for emergency services at the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, among other groups, to refine the required information needs of emergency responders, and accordingly, develop behavioral computing approaches to mine noisy social media datasets.

Current practices are slow and limited to keyword searches and filtering irrelevant information from social media. The volume and questionable accuracy of the tweets also have been stumbling blocks to effectively using this unconventional information source. 
Purohit and team will work with emergency response teams to identify meaningful intentional behavior categories that align with emergency response needs, followed by working with psychologists to further validate behavioral categories and develop categorization algorithms. They’ll develop and evaluate a tool that uses these categorization algorithms to highlight social media posts most helpful to emergency responders.

The software will be made publically available through open source code and promoted to the emergency community and other interested parties. Plus, Mason students will be using the research results as part of MS AIT and Data Analytics Engineering courses.


Data Indicate Syrian Refugee Organ Sales Appear to Benefit Terror Groups

Data indicate that Syrian refugees like these are victims of black market organ sales

Data collected and analyzed by Mason Engineering professor Duminda Wijesekera, indicate that Syrian refugees like these are victims of black market organ sales.

Syrian refugees who sell their organs to provide for their displaced families are indirectly supporting terrorist organizations, said Duminda Wijesekera, professor in the Department of Computer Science.

Wijesekera, who has studied international money laundering for more than 10 years, said it is impossible to confirm exactly who is exchanging the funds and which terror organizations are profiting, but it is clear from the data that victims who deal with third-party brokers receive very little of the cash while terror groups profit.

Prices for human kidneys on the Turkish black market can reach $75,000, according to Campbell Fraser, an Australia-based human trafficking expert who has worked with George Mason researchers on the topic.


Statistics Professor Extends Research with Fulbright Scholarship

William Rosenberger
William Rosenberger

William Rosenberger, a University Professor and Department of Statistics chair received a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Aachen, Germany to pursue his research on randomization. While there he conducted collaborative research at the RWTH Aachen University Medical Center. He also finished the second edition of his book, Randomization in Clinical Trials: Theory and practice.

Researcher Profile: Lance Sherry, Air Transportation


Lance Sherry

Lance Sherry

Lance Sherry's primary research interests include aspects of air transpiration.

His research and expertise were featured in a 9-part series on Airline Incidents for the Discovery Channel in 2012. Simulations in the Center for Air Transportation Systems Research lab, as well as subject matter expert interviews on probabilistic models of flight deck task completion with Sherry, were included in the final program.

Dr. Sherry's work with Volgenau's Center for Air Transportation Systems Research encourages excellence in education and research in air transportation systems engineering. The Center's work includes transportation network-of-networks simulation, optimization, and analysis; complex adaptive systems simulation and analysis; airport and airspace simulation and performance analysis; and rare-event safety analysis for systems and devices.

He teaches classes on such subjects as Air Traffic Control and Flight Training. 

Data Mining Advances Biology and the Work of Clinicians

Computer science associate professor Huzefa Rangwala says one of his projects related to bioinformatics works on the same principles as Netflix: Both make recommendations based on previous behaviors. Rangwala employs data mining to analyze the behavior of bacteria in the human body, and to look at the whole spectrum of data in disease processes, from inflammatory bowel disease to obesity. The fun part, according to Rangwala, is that while he is advancing computer science, he’s also advancing biology and medicine, and the work of clinicians.

Collaborating with chemists and others, Rangwala is working with "recommended molecules," taking data mining several steps forward, and inventing new computer software solutions to discover hidden patterns.

"Data mining is not just looking for phone numbers," says Rangwala, “but exploring and discovering the unknown. It leads to many innovations in varied fields.”

Rangwala's work, like many of Mason's top researchers, is cross-disciplinary. He is collaborating with Siddhartha Sikdar, associate professor of bioengineering, on a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop a prototype for a prosthetic arm. The project focuses on amputees who have no forearms, and the team is striving to develop a device that duplicates complex movements of the arm and hand.

"You have muscular signature remnants in your arm," explains Rangwala, "which can be found with ultrasound probes." The aim is to replicate the patterns in muscle movements using a combination of robotics, electrical engineering, and bioengineering.


Departments Active in Big Data Research

Computer Science

Researchers in the Department of Computer Science design, implement, and maintain computer software systems used in almost all other professions. Students majoring in computer science will become well grounded in technologies needed for the acquisition, representation, storage, transmission, transformation, and use of information in digital form and must be capable of working closely with members of other professions associated with computing.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Researchers in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department work on the foundations on which computer engineering and computer science rest. Electrical engineers design and build the equipment that most of us take for granted—computers, cell phones, televisions, rockets, satellites, communications and computer networks, mobile radios, environmental control systems, robots, weapons, and medical devices. With a proud history as one of the school’s founding departments, ECE also the distinction of being closely allied with the recently established Department of Bioengineering.

Information Sciences and Technology

The Department of Information Sciences and Technology prepares students to address one of the greatest challenges facing society – how to derive actionable insights from the vast reservoirs of information and data available by using innovative technologies and techniques.

Systems Engineering and Operations Research

The Department of Systems Engineering and Operations Research prepares students to determine the most effective ways for an organization to use all of a given system's components -- people, machines, materials, information, and energy. Operations researchers try to find order in apparent chaos by identifying the structure in complex situations and understanding how the components or organizations interact. Their discoveries provide a rational basis for making decisions.


The Department of Statistics conducts fundamental research and guides students in developing the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to model, analyze, and understand real-world data arising in science, medicine, and social sciences. The department has expertise in many cutting-edge areas of statistical research, including biostatistics, the application of statistics to medical research; biometric identification; and computational statistics, including visualization and data mining.