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Big data and big ideas grow in Innovation Lab

Faculty | Dec 02, 2015 |

AE1A1318By Claire Curry

Imagine if we applied big-data analytics to social media to learn which methods of treatment cancer patients report as most effective.

Picture the sweeping efficiencies we could realize if we could rapidly analyze existing pharmaceutical drug patents to determine how likely a court is to validate a new one.

What if we could measure the productivity of “sharing economy” services such as Uber to learn if they are, in fact, displacing traditional businesses?

These are among the social issues being addressed in the Gabelli School’s Innovation Lab, launched in fall 2015. A think tank for the development of tech-driven ideas, the lab provides a supportive environment where students and faculty can explore solutions for business and social challenges through the lens of academic research.

Innovation Lab teams are using technology, big data, and artificial intelligence to develop apps, research policy issues, and predict potential outcomes in a number of industries, including healthcare, finance, and law.

What does this look like in practice? Professor RP Raghupathi offered the drug-patent project as an example. “Using artificial intelligence techniques makes it possible to analyze data much faster,” he said. “We are building a model that will help us quickly analyze large amounts of text data [from past cases]. When done manually, that is a very time-consuming process.”

Raghupathi added that the data can determine the probability of whether a patent will be validated or not. Attorneys can use that information to decide whether to settle or litigate, streamlining the legal process and, in many cases, saving time and money in court. “That’s where the power lies,” he said.

Innovation Lab members—about 60 graduate students and faculty—meet once a week to formulate ideas, learn from guest speakers, and prepare to implement their projects, often in teams. They are working on empirical studies and technical tools that could develop into longer-term projects, white papers, and even startups—at which point an Innovation Lab project would move out and into a traditional incubator.

Undergraduates also are attending technology workshops and being encouraged to get involved.

Rustam Bensalem, MSBA ’16, is working on a project with Hannah Parker, MSBA ’16, that applies linguistic analytics to social media and the spoken word to identify specific personality characteristics.

“We feel this can be useful to learn more about a job candidate, a client, or even how you’d be perceived delivering a public statement,” Bensalem said. The project uses state-of-the-art IBM software called Personality Insights, which feeds information into an analytical website that the students developed. Bensalem said that the Innovation Lab, in addition to being an environment where participants are free to explore ideas, offers access to the latest tools such that would otherwise be out of reach.

“Students develop their skills and their knowledge base in a progressive fashion using the apprentice-associate-fellow model,” Raghupathi said. “They will showcase their work not only at Fordham, but throughout the New York City professional community.”

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