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CMU Professor Teaches Data Visualization Software in the Philippines

2017 was an interesting year for Johnny Snyder, Ph.D. Instead of waking up in the Grand Valley and riding his bike to Colorado Mesa University to teach courses on computer information systems, he woke up on an island in the Philippines. He was on sabbatical, doing research and giving that Colorado skin some humidity at the same time. When the semester was over, he said goodbye to a country he loved, and vowed he’d be back. Since then, he has maintained active research threads in the Philippines and works closely with major state universities: The University of the Philippines (UP), Cebu Normal University (CNU) and the Research Institute for Computational Mathematics and Physics (RICMP). This summer, after four flights, Snyder was back in Cebu City introducing Tableau, a data visualization tool to the faculty at CNU. RICMP director, Dr. Roberto Corcino, invited Snyder to facilitate the three day training, which was made up of 14 CNU and RICMP faculty members from the departments of mathematics, physics, biology and education.

The training was a collaboration across academic departments to organize and deconstruct data in new ways using filters and other data analysis tools to view specific dimensions of information. By doing this, researchers can more easily establish underlying data trends and come up with real solutions to real problems.

During the training, attendees looked through data sets on certain issues addressing public health, one being dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease found mostly in tropical and subtropical areas. The Philippines have seen a spike in dengue cases this year, so much so that the country issued a national dengue alert. After confirming the data was clean and inputting it, they had Tableau organize the outbreak data in such a way that they could visually see where the most severe breakouts were occurring over time. The next step will be to find out what was causing it, so they plan to look into rain fall levels and other environmental factors, again using Tableau. 

According to Snyder, analyzing multiple sets of data through this specific software tells a story.

"It shows why certain issues are occurring and how to address them.”

Snyder said the faculty will continue to use this software to conduct research and spark new research projects. 

His work with data exploration and Tableau is not only utilized in the Philippines, but back here at CMU as well. His students learn how to use the same software, placing them in high demand in the job market. Snyder also played a key role in launching the Business Analytics program last year, which prepares students for a career in data gathering, cleansing, analysis and visualization in support of business decisions.

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Written by Kelsey Coleman