NC State Partners With National Security Agency on Big-Data Lab

August 15, 2013

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North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson today announced a new partnership with the National Security Agency (NSA) to create the Laboratory for Analytic Sciences (LAS) on NC State’s Centennial Campus. The lab will bring together some of the brightest minds from government, academia and industry to address the most challenging big-data problems and will be a cornerstone of the emerging advanced data innovation hub at NC State.

The NSA grant funding of the LAS is the largest sponsored research contract in the university’s history. The new enterprise is expected to directly bring 100 new jobs to the Triangle over the next several years, and to attract new government and industry partners.

“NC State is committed to developing partnerships that solve the grand challenges facing society and promote innovative products and solutions that improve lives around the globe,” Woodson said.

“We appreciate the confidence of the National Security Agency to select NC State for this groundbreaking endeavor. Not only will it enhance the academic experience for our students and faculty, it will also add to the economic prosperity of our community through new jobs, new industry and new partnerships.”

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Through a highly competitive selection process, NSA chose NC State for this partnership due in large part to the university’s national leadership and expertise in data analysis along with its strong existing partnerships with industry, universities and government agencies. The geographic proximity of the Research Triangle and NC State’s strong connections to national industry leaders, local businesses and other leading research universities including Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill solidified NC State as the ideal host for the LAS.

NC State researchers will assist NSA scientists in establishing priorities and conducting research for the LAS. A key goal of the LAS is to promote new advances in the science of analysis through innovative collaborations between industry, academia and government.

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NC State’s expertise in big data ranges from its Institute for Advanced Analytics, which offers an intensive 10-month Master of Science in Analytics degree — the first program of its kind — that boasts before-graduation job-placement rates of more than 90 percent, to its Center for Innovative Management Studies, which examines the trends and technologies surrounding big data. The university also has traditional strengths in computer science, mathematics and statistics – all disciplines in which understanding large sets of data is paramount – and is currently hiring four faculty members for its new data-driven science “cluster.”

Besides a major collaborative project on cybersecurity with the NSA, NC State also has multiple existing partnerships with the NSA’s parent agency, the Department of Defense. Research projects include technology that can best help soldiers identify improvised explosive devices from a distance, as well as a study of the best dog breeds that can sniff out these IEDs; fire-protection research to help soldiers and first responders; research into “wrinkled layers” that can be added to ships’ coatings to help barnacles from forming, saving fuel and cleaning costs; and a language training center that works to improve the language skills, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills of military personnel.

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NC State is uniting the best minds from a range of disciplines to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

“No single academic discipline can solve 21st century problems,” said Dr. Terri Lomax, NC State’s vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development. “Answers come by probing the intersection of a variety of disciplines and from dissecting mounds of data. These are some of the things that NC State does best, along with innovative partnerships with government, industry, and non-profits.”

Due to the high degree of confidentiality required for the LAS work, specific funding, personnel numbers and facility details cannot be provided. Although physical access to the lab itself will be restricted to individuals who have been issued a security clearance by the U.S. government, a portion of the fundamental research will be conducted at the unclassified level in existing faculty labs.