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New ECE professor defines the future of big data and social science collaboration

Revelations in big data analytics opened up new realms of strategy for economic, technological and scientific industries. Managing that process across the board is where a new professor at The Ohio State University found her niche. 

Tanya Berger-Wolf joined the university in 2020 as faculty director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute, within Ohio State’s Discovery Themes initiative. She is a professor of Computer Science and Engineering; Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology; as well as Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). 

While scientists ponder how COVID-19 will change population and societal behavior going forward, the need for data analytics - and experts in it, such as Berger-Wolf - has grown exponentially.

A computational ecologist, she works at the unique intersection of computer science, data science, wildlife biology and social sciences. She creates computational solutions to address questions such as how environmental factors affect the behaviors of social animals (humans included). 

For its role at Ohio State, TDAI involves up to 200 affiliated faculty spanning throughout the entire university. 

“This is the intellectual and physical hub of data research,” Berger-Wolf said about the institute. “If there is data anywhere in your research, we’re a part of it and the TDAI community is a part of it. We have research activities focused around communities of practice. I think every one of them has intersections with ECE.” 

Many of its associated fields include Computational Health and Life Sciences, Computational Social Sciences, Foundations of Data Science, Responsible Data Science; Smart Communities and Distributed Sensing; and more recently, Responsible Data Science. 

Berger-Wolf said her field also very much engages with Ohio State’s newly launched Institute for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust

She is also a founding member and project lead for Wildbook (a project of the non-profit Wild Me), an open source software platform that supports the use of AI, computer vision, citizen science and collaboration to accelerate wildlife research to understand and counter widespread wildlife decline.

Berger-Wolf came to Ohio State via the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was a professor of computer science and headed the Computational Population Biology Laboratory. Prior to her time there, she was an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the University of Mexico and at the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS), a collaborative project of Rutgers University, AT&T Labs – Research, NEC Laboratories America, Nokia Bell Labs, Perspecta Labs, and Princeton University.

Story by Ryan Horns | ECE/IMR Communications Specialist | Horns.1@osu.edu | @OhioStateECE