Chi-Ren Shyu, Electrical & Computer Engineering

chi-renDr. Chi-Ren Shyu is chairman of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the director of the University of Missouri Informatics Institute, a campus-wide doctoral program in bioinformatics and health informatics.

Dr. Shyu uses the latest techniques in data science and informatics to solve problems related to food, safety, health and related areas that are critical to societal well-being, with a technical focus on biomedical informatics, geospatial information and data mining. He has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education and other for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Dr. Shyu is also actively involved in educating the next generation of data scientists. He leads teams that visits local high schools and invites students from those schools to his lab to conduct research.

His team works with high school students in the nascent but exciting field of ‘Big Data’ technologies. ‘Big Data’ deals with massive quantities of data arising from a variety of situations, ranging from medical data to web usage to geospatial information. Dr. Shyu’s specific expertise is bioinformatics, which involves biological data, often related to genetics and genomics, which is the part of genetics that studies genomes.

Select high school students get to work with Dr Shyu in his lab on research dealing with understanding smarter and more energy efficient ways to redesign algorithms to use limited resources to perform big data experiments. These students undergo rigorous selection procedures before they get to work in Dr. Shyu’s lab.

Dr. Shyu is also involved in bringing the advanced technologies he’s working on to neighboring universities such as University of Missouri at Kansas City, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Central Missouri University and Missouri State University. Some of these universities do not have Ph.D. programs or the infrastructure to support research into Big Data, an emerging field.

As a result, the faculty in those schools are often under-equipped to teach and perform research on data science, a problem that Dr. Shyu seeks to remedy.

“We reach out to those universities, write to their department chairs, and let them know that we have budget to bring our expertise to their university. We have say, around 800 students who will benefit from the research here, but if we reach out to these universities, five times or ten times that amount of students will benefit,” Dr. Shyu said.

The point of any scientific research is how it can impact both the general public and the scientific community, Dr. Shyu said. “We see applications for our research in several fields like bioinformatics, geo-informatics, sensor networks and elder care technology” said Dr. Shyu. “We create a template for this kind of research and make the template available to the rest of the research community, which might be performing similar types of research with limited hardware which can then help them achieve their goals.”