A team of UConn students earned third place in the 2019 International Big Data & Analytics Education Conference with their passionate presentation on “The Catastrophic Effects of Global Warming—The Forces at Play.”
The team consisted of the graduate students Barbara Lucas Johnson and Prasanthi Lingamallu, and undergrad Carl Johnson. Their adviser was Marketing Professor Girish Punj.
The analytics event is a highly-regarded, worldwide competition aimed at generating innovative analytics solutions while also raising awareness around environmental issues and sustainability. The UConn team used sophisticated data mining tools to chart global warming from 1905 to 2015, identify top drivers of global warming, and recommend initiatives for a healthier planet.
“It is such an important topic that all else is meaningless. Once you start understanding the meaning of all the data, it takes your breath away,” said Lucas Johnson. “When I began this project, I thought I knew a lot about climate change. But after analyzing tons of data and reading hundreds of articles, I realized I knew very little. The climate crisis is really more of a grand challenge, like the fight against cancer. But unlike cancer research, we can all play a role in fighting climate change, each and every one of us.”
Punj said he thinks the students did an exceptional job under challenging circumstances. The project had to be completed in addition to their regular coursework and much of it had to be done over winter break. This is the first time that UConn had entered the competition.
“Much of what’s reported on climate change is factual or based on weather episodes, but the impact is momentary. People are getting ‘climate change fatigue’ and they begin to ignore the impact. Our students used an analytics approach to bring together the facts and connect them with a thread. They were able to relate things like rising sea levels and forest fires. They walked away with something valuable. This is a great example of how science and business can combine to help the world.”
Lingamallu said the team members were all passionate about global warming, climate change and sustainability, and their research fueled their interest.
“We each had very different backgrounds, education, experiences and perspectives on the problem statement, but it is this diversity in thought that helped us put together a very rich and well-rounded presentation,” she said.
Lucas Johnson is a graduate student pursing an advanced certificate in digital marketing strategy; Johnson, her son, is an undergraduate majoring in OPIM, and Lingamallu, a vice president at Bank of America, completed her MSBAPM graduate degree in May. She was also in the Digital Marketing Strategy certificate program.
The students started work in November 2018. They learned in March that they were among the Top 10 teams, and the third-place award was announced June 4 at the conference, sponsored by the University of Maryland in College Park.
“I could never have imagined how much effort it was to find the data, clean it and harmonize it, then try to analyze it,” Lucas Johnson said, adding that the competition and learning to develop important presentations will be instrumental in her career.
She credits OPIM Professor John Wilson for teaching storytelling and visualization and Punj for teaching students about big data, analytics and artificial intelligence.
“The insights and tools from these classes boost any student’s value in the marketplace,” Lucas Johnson said.