STEM Roundup: Processing More Data More Quickly

A roundup of recent STEM education and employment news.

Hospitals must find ways to manage data more efficiently.

At MIT, a team has created software that processes vast amounts of data very quickly.

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MIT Profs, Students Accelerate Data Processing

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- New software, developed by students and professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can use the graphics processors found on everyday computers to process torrents of data more quickly than ever, opening up new ways to visually explore everything from Twitter posts to political donations. Samuel Madden, a computer science professor at MIT, told the MIT Technology Review that his team has built "a new kind of database system," one that can map "every request by scanning through every Tweet in [Twitter's] database, which can be done in just a few milliseconds." Todd Mostak, then a Harvard graduate student in Middle Eastern studies, dreamed up the technology last year after becoming frustrated by sluggish processing while trying to crunch social-media data sets from Egypt and elsewhere. One early adopter: the Sunlight Foundation, a good-government watchdog, which is feeding 22 years of U.S. state and federal campaign donation data to MapD to break down more than 20 million donations according to donor, region, elected official, and other parameters.

Grant to Help U. Washington Boost Women STEM Profs Pays Off

SEATTLE -- The University of Washington has seen steady growth in the number of women teaching science or technology classes, thanks to a National Science Foundation grant to help boost the number of female faculty. While the grant ended in 2007, four of the five associate deans in the UW College of Engineering are women, and many of the support programs that helped them are still in place, the Seattle Times reported. In 2001, fewer than 10 percent of the UW engineering faculty members were women. In 2012, it was just over 20 percent, or 47 tenure- and tenure-track women faculty out of a total of 231. The national average was 14 percent.

Study: US Adults are Behind in Understanding Math, Problem-Solving Technology

WASHINGTON -- American adults scored below the international average on a global test in math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength. The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, also found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States. Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and several other countries scored significantly higher than those from the United States in all three areas on the test, according to results released Oct. 8 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of mostly industrialized member countries. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Wisconsin Prof: Exposure to STEM Subjects Key to Student's Field of Study

MADISON, Wis. -- A University of Wisconsin professor found that exposure to a wide variety of STEM subjects -- not just good grades -- is a key factor in a student's decision to major in a STEM-related field. But the study by professor Xueli Wang determined there is no simple answer why Latinos, African Americans and other minorities lag behind whites in the field. "It is very possible that various groups learn and are exposed to math and science courses differently," she told "This is why it is so important that more research be conducted to better understand how math and science education can better serve underrepresented minority students." Self-efficacy -- whether a student believes in his or her own ability to do the work -- is another key, underscoring the need to stimulate interest and spur achievement among children.

Intel Study: Millenials Want Society to Turn Off, Tune In

A study commissioned by Intel found that, despite having grown up with smart phones, Google and Facebook, young millennials -- men and women ages 18 to 24 - are among the fiercest tech skeptics: 59 percent believe society is too reliant on technology, and 61 percent believe it makes us "less human." Fewer than half think technological devices should learn about their behavior and preferences, a concept that is integral to everything from Google and Facebook to Nest and the ballyhooed "Internet of things." But in China, seven out of 10 women older than 45 believe people don't use technology enough, and 79 percent say it makes us more human. That figure is 70 percent across all of the emerging-market countries in the survey, including Brazil, India, and Indonesia. But just 22 percent of American women in the same age group agreed.

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