Big Data Week

We had a great meeting at the Pawsey Centre during big data week, with five speakers giving excellent presentations highlighting the diversity of activities in WA.

The evening was in the form of a “rabble”, with five speakers who each had just 10 minutes to give their presentation. It’s hard task, but they all did superbly.

Winthrop Professor Andy Whiteley, School of Earth and Environment, UWA. Andy presented the Microblitz project, which aims to create a map of the diversity and distribution of microbial life across Western Australia. Not only is the number of samples that will be generated quite staggering, so is the volume of data arising from the microbial DNA. Then there’s the need to combine this with other information, such as geology and soil productivity …. you can read more at the microblitz web site

Winthrop Professor Grant Morahan, Centre for Diabetes Research, Harry Perkins Institute. Grant showed how analysis of genetic material can be used to identify patients in the high risk category for certain diseases, such as diabetes, breast cancer, and heart disease.

Peter Winn, Velrada. Pete encouraged us to look at the broader context when analysing data. He used an analogy of a runner having a sore knee; to identify possible causes, you might have to look at factors otehr than the knee itself, such as foot mechanics, running shoes, and other body muscles and movement.

Professor Andrew Rohl, NanoChemistry Research Institute, Curtin University. Andrew noted that not all problems scale sufficiently to use the power of a petaflop computer. We learned that only some problems are strongly scalable, where adding more processors reduces the overall compute time. Other problems are weakly scalable, where the problem size can be increased by adding more processors.

Professor Jenni Harrison, Head of iVEC’s Data Team. Jenni introduced us to the Data Team at iVEC, who are available to assist with design and implementation of large data systems to take advantage of the iVEC super computing facilities.

The scale and potential impact of some of the projects is truly impressive. A common theme was the need for visualisation tools to support large data analysis, and that’s the theme of our next meeting on 1st July.


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