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Workshop Updates NPS Data Scientists on Current Research

Mark Velednitsky, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the University of California Berkeley, was one of several presenters at the NPS Operations Research department’s second annual Day of Data, Decisions and Defense, Aug. 27.

Doctoral students from prestigious universities across the nation recently convened at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) to share their latest research in data science and analytics.

The second annual “Day of Data, Decisions and Defense” workshop hosted by NPS’ Operations Research (OR) department, Aug. 27, provided a forum for students from NPS, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin at Madison to present and discuss a range of current topics in this pivotal field.

“The impetus is always meeting young, talented doctoral students working on challenging problems in defense and homeland security operations research,” said OR professor Javier Salmerón, who organized the event.

“It gives these students an opportunity to meet faculty working on related problems, and it gives us a perspective of current research being carried out by doctoral students in other departments that focus on operations research,” he added.

The intense, day-long workshop covered a lot of ground, but was thematically organized along four topical areas: probabilistic risk analysis, optimization, statistics, and Markov models.

The presentations ranged from space surveillance sensors for collision management to statistical models that predict human performance, and sophisticated algorithms to solve complex, nonlinear optimization problems, to name a few.

“This type of workshop serves as an example of NPS’ interest in cutting-edge research and offers other researchers from top universities the opportunity to see NPS and interact with our faculty, creating links for future collaboration,” Salmerón said. “Fostering these relationships with faculty and students at other institutions is beneficial to NPS and the Department of Defense.”

The pervasive growth of information technology over the past two decades has radically transformed virtually every aspect of military affairs. When nearly everything is digitalized, effectively managing and interpreting massive amounts of data has proven to be a daunting challenge.

Few organizations in the world collect more data than the DOD. Across disparate domains – intelligence, oceanography, personnel, logistics, cybersecurity, meteorology, acquisition, command and control – successfully navigating this data remains a critical challenge to U.S. national security.

NPS students and faculty have been making significant contributions to this field for years. In 2013, the OR department, in NPS’ Graduate School of Operational and Information Sciences (GSOIS), began offering a specialization track focused on data science and, since 2016, has added a graduate certificate in the discipline.

This summer, NPS formed the interdisciplinary Data Science and Analytics Group (DSAG) to streamline the way data science is developed, taught and shared across the university and beyond.

“Through the DSAG, NPS will establish itself as the thought leader, educational nexus, and primary research coordinator for data science and analytics in the DOD,” Dr. Robert Dell, the OR professor tasked with leading DSAG, said at the time.

“There is an incredible demand for DSAG research and education,” he added. “In many ways, [DSAG] is a response to the overwhelming number of calls we get from government agencies looking for help.”

With events like Salmerón’s Day of Data, Decisions and Defense, the university looks to expand its resident expertise in the burgeoning field by staying on top of the latest research in peer OR departments across the nation.

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