20 Million Filing Cabinets
September 21, 2015
Think your e-mail inbox is too full? Try dealing with a petabyte of data—and making sense of it. A petabyte is equivalent to 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text. It takes a statistician with the right kind of expertise to handle this amount of data.
Research in all fields has been transformed radically in recent years by new abilities to access, organize, and learn from massive data sets. As scholars harness new power from data, the importance of statistics—also the focus of one of UVA’s youngest departments in the College of Arts & Sciences—has expanded exponentially. A firm quantitative foundation is now integral to both undergraduate and graduate education at the University.
“Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay!”
–Sherlock Holmes, in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.
Thanks to Frank (College ’85) and Nancy (Law ‘93) Bynum of New York, UVA is capturing opportunities from this explosive growth in statistics and is on the leading edge of data-driven research. Their recent gift supports the chair of the Department of Statistics, which led to the hiring of Karen Kafadar, Commonwealth Professor and chair of the department, in the fall of 2014.
A leader in her profession, Kafadar previously chaired and held a professorship in Indiana University’s statistics department. Her strengths lie in some of UVA’s key specialties, including statistical methodology for applications in physical, chemical, biological, and forensic sciences. UVA recently appointed her to direct its research role in the new Forensic Science Center of Excellence—a national collaborative effort to strengthen the scientific basis for forensic evidence used in the criminal justice system.
The Bynums’ gift also supported three other areas of the College, including seed grants for research through the Quantitative Collaborative (a five-year-old initiative connecting scholars who are engaged in research with social and political impact), annual funding for the Jewish Studies Program, and a family-named endowment for faculty excellence.