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NSF Grant to help Implement Data Mining Software


By My Nguyen, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing
December 2, 2008

Taking a cell-phone and a pen in hand, an extremely animated professor, Sang-Hee Lee, showed me the concept of comparing two objects.

"Take this cell-phone and pen. Look at their shape.  See that this pen has something sticking out of it," she motioned to the cap.  "And see that this here is dangling from the phone."  The grey strap to her cell-phone moved with the touch of her hand.

Soon it began to dawn upon me what Professor Lee was trying to say.

As a biological anthropologist, Professor Lee has been busy studying the evolution of human morphological variation based on fossil record.  She seeks to identify the mechanisms for the patterns observed in the human as well as the ancestral human fossil record.

In her latest project, titled "Tools to Mine and Index Trajectories of Physical Artifacts," Lee, along with Eamon Keogh, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, will be tackling a software program that will be graphing objects by their similarities.

This three year long project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will help Professors Lee and Keogh and their team of researchers, implement a program that will begin by documenting the shape and quality of arrowheads.  Stage two is to research 20,000 petroglyphs in New Mexico's Petroglyph Park.

"And then think about 2,000 objects," said Lee.  "We will be measuring the fundamental similarities of different historical artifacts and revolutionizing data mining at the same time.  With this tool we will be comparing and measuring a much larger array of objects."

According to Professor Lee, the human mind’s capacity for comparison can grapple with only so much data.  Lee claims that the human mind can compare only a limited number of objects at the same time, and scientists can collect only so many data points from a single object, which is what a traditional landmark-using approach does.

This tool will also help identify change through time, claims Lee.  What she hopes this project will do is take advantage of two things: identifying the progression of change and what historical effect it had on this world.

"Applying new advances that have been made in data mining and computer science, the research aims to develop a new tool that can handle million pieces of objects, and million data points on each object, all at the same time," said Lee.  "This new tool and database will allow anthropologists to understand patterns of changes through a wide range of time and space."

 


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