“We talked to the UAB Research
Foundation about getting a patent, which
was a new idea then,” Hardin said. “But
back in 1997 I didn’t know how to help
a student start a company. Steve had to
start MedMined on his own. It turned
out, of course, to be very successful.
Now he’s started another company,
MedSnap, focused on medication safety.
But I vowed then to ensure that we would
learn how to help any student who had a
For Hardin and his colleagues, the
evolving potential for data analytics —
what it could do not only for companies
and consumers but also for student
entrepreneurs — quickly became
apparent. Hardin continued exploring
possibilities, becoming an oft-consulted
expert, teaching Humana analysts,
receiving SAS Institute affiliation, and
employing analytics skills in studies
ranging from predicting HIV patients’
drug interaction dangers to suggesting
how “sundowning” behavior patterns in
the elderly could help nursing homes
enhance patient-care models.
Other Culverhouse professors
developed and incorporated similar skill
sets, applying them to fields as varied as
forest growth patterns and auto-parts
stocking. Soon the College became a
magnet for professionals with data-application interests. As faculty expertise
was incorporated into the Culverhouse
curriculum, corporate recruiters from
varied sectors took notice.
“Data analytics is basic pattern
recognition,” Hardin said. "Sometimes
pattern detection results in better
health. Other times it results in more
efficient manufacturing. Almost always,
it results in higher profits."
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH
Although the shootout recognition created
an academic and corporate buzz that
continues to reverberate, Culverhouse
routines continue. Professors like
Sox encourage promising students to
consider analytics, explaining how such
skills are adapted to vital issues within
virtually every organization.
Faculty members continue big-data
research, showing students how their
results can improve everything from
on-time Christmas deliveries to theme-park traffic flow.
The SAS website continues to laud
the Culverhouse program, detailing how
UA’s MBA graduates with concentrations
in data mining attract starting salaries
up to $15,000 higher than some other
MBAs, “with 100 percent job placement
within 90 days.”
Corporate leaders continue to seek
Culverhouse graduates with analytics
“We want our alumni to know that the
results from this national competition
represent just one application of this type
of work,” Sox said. “Analytics is not only
used in health care or in manufacturing
but in all types of services.”
Due to such demand, analytics
principles are expected to be integrated
across the business curriculum.
Observers expect some participants in
UA’s new STEM (science, technology,
engineering, math) Pathway to the MBA
to seize such opportunities, choosing
analytics concentration in their studies.
Such studies are part of what
Culverhouse is doing to prepare
graduates to become innovative leaders,
employing value-added skills wherever
their career paths lead.
ANOTHER WAY TO
Health care applications aren’t the only ways applied
statistics can save lives.
Dr. Michael Porter is a
Culverhouse statistics professor
who for years served as a private-sector security analyst, conducting
geospatial-prediction research for
firms like DigitalGlobe. He has
received research funding from
the National Institute of Justice,
the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention’ and the
Office of Naval Research.
Some of Porter’s students
aim to mine data for security
and criminal-justice clients,
detecting patterns in large,
diverse data (Twitter feeds, GIS,
drones, cellphones) in hopes
of modeling and analyzing
such data to make predictions.
Those predictions might help
the Department of Defense
anticipate terror hot spots
or enable a suburban police
department to prevent crime.
Employing a heavy emphasis
on ethical concerns, Porter
is one of the Culverhouse
professionals helping future
statisticians find new ways to
use big data and statistical
analytics to protect persons,
property and privacy.