News featuring Nathan Self

Data scientists combat hate crimes and other violence

Research associates Brian Mayer (top) and Nathan Self (bottom) meet virtually to review targeted violence events on the dashboard developed by the Sanghani Center.

About the series: Every complex problem has many multidisciplinary angles. Leveraging expertise and energy, Virginia Tech faculty and students serve humanity by addressing the world’s most difficult problems.

With risk of political and targeted violence on the rise across the United States, national and local leaders are asking Princeton University’s nonpartisan Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) to provide them with more timely, reliable, and context-specific data on targeted violence events that could help them engage locally and better inform their policy decisions. 

As part of their response to this plea, BDI’s team of Princeton social scientists collaborated with data scientists at the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics to identify targeted violence events. These often include hate crimes and other incidents that target individuals because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other perceived characteristics. Click here to read more about this research.


World Wildlife Fund partners with Discovery Analytics Center on automated system to help save forests

Aerial view of Amazon deforestation, municipality of Calamar, Guaviare Department, Colombia. The “buffer zone” around Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia is being deforested at an alarming rate, due to land grabbing and cattle ranching, especially in areas newly “opened up” as a result of the peace process. Photo © Luis Barreto / WWF-UK

Nearly half the world’s forests are under threat of deforestation and forest degradation.

Forests are at most risk of being destroyed by degradation — slashed trees, bare clearings, newly formed trenches and water gullies, and water clouded by eroding soil — which often leads to deforestation. Forest degradation has an even greater environmental, economic, and social impact because it not only affects the structure and function of a forest, but also lowers its capacity to provide goods and ecosystem services to help keep air and water clean, provide wildlife and humans with shelter and food, and capture carbon. More than three-quarters of the world’s land-based species live in forests, and over 1.5 billion people rely directly on forests for their livelihoods. Click here to read more.


Software platform engages communities in school rezoning decisions

Left to right: Colin Flynn, Vicki Keegan, and Susan Hembach from Loudoun County Public Schools meet at the Discovery Analytics Center with Ph.D. students Andreea Sistrunk, Subhodip Biswas, and Fanglan Chen to discuss how Redistrict is helping to establish school attendance zones.

School rezoning decisions often cause emotional stress for families and communities for a variety of reasons.

Parents worry about continuity of programs and activities at a new school, the toll it might take on their children’s friendships, and modes of transportation. School officials, administrators, and staff want to ensure that all students have equitable access to educational programs and facilities. Almost everyone is concerned about the impact a particular school attendance zone will have on traffic patterns, especially at opening and closing times.

Redistrict, an online interactive platform developed at the Discovery Analytics Center at Virginia Tech, is trying to reduce that stress by getting parents and other stakeholders more involved in the process. The platform uses data analytics and machine learning to help them better understand school rezoning plans and their potential effect on the community; share their comments and concerns about proposed plans; propose changes to boundaries; and even create their own plans. Click here to read more about the Redistrict platform.


DAC and BI lead DARPA’s Next Generation Social Science Project

brian & Chris

Brian Goode (left), from the Discovery Analytics Center, and Chris Kuhlman, from the Biocomplexity Institute at Virginia Tech, collaborate on developing models for large-scale social behavior.

DAC and the Biocomplexity Institute are leading a $3 million grant awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of the Next Generation Social Science (NGS2) program.  DAC and BI will conduct research that will streamline modeling processes, experimental design, and methodology in the social sciences. A major objective of the project is to make social science experiments rigorous, reproducible, and scalable to large populations.