Forever True, For Iowa State

Enhancing the dependability of data-driven discovery

As a teenager in rural India, Hridesh Rajan read an article about computers and was instantly enthralled.

“It was fascinating that you could take natural and artificial processes and model them as computational processes, and improve on them for the betterment of society,” Rajan says.

That fact he’d never actually seen a computer didn’t matter. His passion had been ignited by that article – or, in other words, by data. Rajan’s fascination flourished, and he is now Kingland Professor of Data Analytics, a professor of computer science and chair of the department of computer science at Iowa State.

Much of his work focuses on making data and data analysis more accessible to scientists and engineers, especially those for whom high-end computational resources are not readily available. A timely example of this is a first-of-its-kind data science infrastructure that brought together 60 years of research on coronavirus into a single, searchable database.

Understanding and managing the COVID-19 pandemic galvanized Iowa State researchers like Rajan, who responded with expertise, innovation and creativity. Their work embodies the university’s commitment to improving human health – work propelled to new levels of impact on people’s lives through the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign.

“Efforts to enhance the dependability of data-driven discovery are critical because unreliable discoveries can have far-reaching and even catastrophic impacts on science and engineering initiatives and society as a whole,” Rajan says.

In fact, he and his team received a $1.5 million National Science Foundation award to establish a D4 (Dependable Data-Driven Discovery) Institute to enhance the dependability of data-driven life cycles. Funds from the Kingland Professorship he holds helped to support hiring a postdoctoral fellow to contribute to the D4 Institute.

“My deepest thanks to David and Deb Kingland for their support, which allows me to pursue these creative endeavors,” Rajan says. “Without the support of donors like the Kinglands, this would not have been possible.”