IDSC Names New Research Directors

Mitsunori Ogihara and Alberto Cairo

IDSC Names New Research Directors

Two world-renowned professors have been added to the University of Miami Institute for Data Science and Computing’s pioneering faculty roster. Professor Alberto Cairo from the School of Communication has been named Director of Visualization, Data Communication, and Information Design, and Professor Mitsunori Ogihara from the Department of Computer Science has been named Director of Education.

Alberto CairoPrior to coming to UM, Cairo, an acclaimed author and journalist in the field of data visualization, was Director for Visualization, Infographics, and Multimedia at news publications in Spain and Brazil. Cairo will help spearhead IDSC’s efforts in popularizing data literacy and data science among UM’s student body and Miami at large.

“I’ve spent my entire career working on how to communicate effectively and clearly through graphics, maps, charts, data visualizations, and infographics,” said Cairo, a graduate of Spain’s University of Santiago de Compostela. “A goal of the program will be to increase the presence of these skills at UM, and to create educational programs or conferences that will bring interesting people to Miami.”

Cairo, author of How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter About Visual Information (his most recent book) says his role at the Institute will involve relaying skills and techniques to demystify data. He is especially excited about the prospect of making data science more exciting for kids. “I want to develop examples that can be used to teach data science principles about quantifying music, for instance,” Cairo said. “Quantifying music, gathering data about Marvel movies or superheroes, and then, using that to teach statistical principles.”

Cairo feels that learning the principles of data science are often intimidating, which is why he places an emphasis on the visual component of the learning process. “Numbers are abstract representations, symbolic representations of quantities. Those symbols have a high level of abstraction, but when you map them, transform them into graphics, you make them physical. You don’t just imagine it, you see it,” Cairo said. “That’s the power of visualization, and these are the kinds of things I will explore through IDSC.”

Mitsunori OgiharaFellow IDSC Director Mitsunori Ogihara has his own vision for IDSC and its potential for advancement and change in Miami. “We are thinking of how big a role the program may play, finding people in local industry who want to be educated in data mining research and data mining technology. We want to bring industry to our campus, or go to their workplace to provide education,” said Ogihara, who obtained his Ph.D. from the Tokyo Institute of Technology and authored The Complexity Theory Companion, Music Data Mining, Fundamentals of Java Programming, and over 190 research papers on data science. “We want to establish a large body of forward-thinking industrial partners or advisers to help shape the future of IDSC.”

IDSC is still in its initial stages, but the appointments made by Institute Director Nick Tsinoremas have given IDSC a strong foundation. One sign of UM’s significant progress in data science is the recent approval of a new Master of Science in Data Science degree. “I cannot take credit for it,” says Ogihara. “It took many people in many departments to establish the program, in particular, my Arts and Sciences colleagues Geoff Sutcliffe and Maryann Tobin and my IDSC colleagues Alberto Cairo, Rodolfo el-Khoury, Joseph Johnson, and Ben Kirtman. It’s a University-wide effort.”

Like his colleague, Dr. Cairo, Ogihara has always been interested in what can be uncovered beneath seemingly incoherent data sets. “Data mining is a broad term. In the early ‘90s, it meant ‘finding a hidden treasure’ in the data. Today, data mining generally refers to analysis of the data. So not only can you discover interesting patterns, you can develop prediction models from the data, finding interesting and useful information.”

Ogihara, who is also the interim director of IDSC’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning program, sees a plethora of ways data mining can be effectively used to improve UM’s understanding of its students and faculty. “With the University’s now stronger and much larger computational power, we could perform a holistic analysis of student life, discovering ways to enhance the student experience.

IDSC will continue to take shape over the next several years. Ogihara and Cairo enthusiastically bring their unique talents to the digital table.


written by Parker Gimbel