School of Business Administration

Experts discuss power of data analytics in pandemic response

icon of a calendarOctober 26, 2020

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Dr. Vijayan Sugumaran
Mark Guthrie, CIO and director, AM General, on a laptop computer screen in a video conference.
In addition to sessions illustrating the impact of data across medicine, research and public health, the virtual symposium included a panel discussion about careers in analytics. Here, Mark Guthrie, CIO and director, AM General, shares his insight.

Connecting people with data is crucial to gaining insight and improving response to Covid-19. Nearly 100 attendees from around the world joined thought leaders from around the country to learn and discuss how analytics, artificial intelligence, statistical modeling, deep learning and other data is powering the fight against Covid-19.

Oakland University’s virtual symposium on Data Analytics and the Covid-19 Pandemic presented sessions illustrating the impact data has across medicine, research and public health.

Following welcome remarks from Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., president, Oakland University, and C. Michelle Piskulich, Ph.D., OU interim provost, the symposium’s first session highlighted medicine and research, distilling lessons from antibody testing by Kenneth Mitton, Ph.D., OU’s Eye Research Institute; medical image analytics by Courtney Ambrozic, SAS Institute; and AI and drug repositioning by Aris Persidis, Ph.D., Biovista.

A second session covered testing and mitigation by featuring wastewater testing for early warning of outbreaks by Crystal Hepp, Northern Arizona University; statistical modeling by Bhramar Mukherjee, University of Michigan; and the role of AI and deep learning in mitigation by Franz Salas and Naresh Jasotani, both from Google.

“Bringing together experts from the private sector and academia to share how the application of big data and artificial intelligence can aid in uncovering significant trends and developing innovative solutions to address high-impact problems like Covid-19 reflects the multidisciplinary mission of our research center,” says Vijayan Sugumaran, Ph.D., co-director, OU’s Center for Data Science and Big Data Analytics, which coordinated and presented the symposium.

In a third session, four OU alumni led a panel discussion about career opportunities in analytics. The panel participants included Mark Guthrie, director, IS&S, and CIO, AM General (SECS ’86, MBA ’91); Gene Grabowski, principal solutions architect and data scientist (ECN ’89), SAS Institute; Avanti Tatriaju, access technology analyst, Henry Ford Health System (MSITM ’18); and Amy Siebert-McKenzie, post-doctoral fellow, Versiti Blood Research Institute (CAS ‘17).

“I must state categorically that I really learned a lot and it was equally a wonderful experience,” says participant Ani Chukwuemeka Lawrence, graduate student, Nigeria Air Force Institute of Technology. Lawrence attended the symposium to delve further into statistical analysis and Covid.

The second day of the symposium included a virtual hands-on SAS workshop. The session ended with closing remarks by James Harroun of the SAS Institute.

“I enjoyed learning about the research and applications highlighted at the symposium,” says Chris Holman, a senior in OU’s economics program. “The alumni panel was beneficial. The hands-on portion of the event was informative. It offered tools and furthered my understanding.”

Learn more about the Center for Data Science and Big Data Analytics. Watch the sessions on the School of Business Administration's YouTube channel or request presentation videos or slides by emailing Dr. Sugumaran at or Shannon Johnson at

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