Hong Qin, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

In collaboration with Tuskegee University, Spelman College, and West Virginia University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is proposing a big data spoke project on the education of biological big data (BBD).

The spoke project is to promote the integration and automation of BBD into student training and education. Major educational activities will help faculty and students bridge the gap between big data research and life science communities. Leveraging the team’s expertise in computer science and ecology, the project will offer training workshops on using network models to integrate heterogeneous genomic big data and heterogeneous ecological big data to address large-scale questions in biology.

The team will engage faculty and students in developing a protocol to automate field data collection. The team will also prototype automated methods to enhance plant image digitization, leveraging the large collection of digitized plant images and meta-information at the SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections, a consortium of 233 herbaria in 14 states in the Southeastern U.S., and large ecological datasets in collaboration with the Encyclopedia of Life, a free, online collaborative encyclopedia intended to document all 1.9 million living species known to science.

The project’s educational objectives are: (1) Enhance faculty expertise in BBD through summer workshops; (2) Catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration on BBD research and education through hackathons, working groups, and community-building via a Video Education Faculty Network (VEFN); and (3) Develop hands-on, constructively peer-evaluated learning modules incorporating high-quality video tutorials. Faculty are to be recruited from predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs) and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) for workshops, hackathons and VEFN. The proposed activities will address challenges surrounding the integration and automation of BBD into student research training and education at PUIs and HBCUs. The project will help bridge gaps between BBD and the fields of systems biology, ecology and evolution, and environmental sciences.

The project’s total funding award is $1 million, with approximately $550,000 going to UTC.

 

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