Faculty Brings Big Data Boost to Computer Science

By Caleb Peck, College of Arts and Sciences Posted Thu, 07/20/2017 - 11:45

Professor Matthew Malensek, who specializes in big data, joined the Department of Computer Science this fall as an Assistant Professor. He said that he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work alongside such inspiring faculty who are truly passionate about carrying out cutting-edge research. He’s thrilled to have the opportunity to teach (as well as learn from) such a diverse, talented, and motivated student body here at USF.

Why big data?

Big data is all about using vast quantities of information to gain insight, or, in other words, playing around with the data to find something new. Sometimes what we discover may challenge our intuition of how the world works. My goal within big data is to make it not seem so ‘big’ by exploring datasets and their underlying relationships. My current research leverages Internet of Things (IoT) devices to perform analytics in an inexpensive, power-efficient, and decentralized manner.

You’re teaching a special topics graduate course. How does it prepare students for the future?

The class covers big data from the ground up. We take an in-depth look at how distributed storage systems are able to scale across thousands of servers and petabytes of data, the types of applications that fit these systems, and analysis techniques including prediction and classification with machine learning models. Students get a chance to build these systems by hand as well as leverage cutting-edge cluster computing frameworks such as Apache Spark. These skills are directly applicable in today's data-driven world; in business and politics the insights contained in large datasets become a competitive advantage, and in science they can result in new discoveries that push human knowledge forward.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

There are so many ways I'd like to change the world for the better, but I'll focus on my own field: computer science has a severe gender gap that has continued to grow in recent years. My hope as a professor is to help change this by being a source of support and encouragement for women that wish to pursue careers in technology. Making computer science more inclusive and diverse will help encourage the technological growth we need to tackle oncoming problems and challenges in our world.

Aside from big data, what else are you passionate about?

I love the great outdoors: hiking, biking, photography, and exploring new places. I also enjoy coffee, particularly espresso. There are so many variables that go into making a great cup of coffee that it sometimes feels like a big data problem.