Many students spend their summer breaks going on vacations and relaxing, but not the 40 students selected to participate in Data+, a summer research program at Duke.
They meet twice a week for lunch to share their work on the third floor of Gross Hall.
Mercy Fang and Mike Ma are working on a research project involving prolific pigs, those that make a lot of piglets. They are trying to determine if the pigs are being priced rationally, whether or not the livestock market is efficient and the number of offspring per pig.
Fang said the most challenging part is the research data. “Converting PDF files of data into words has been hard,” said Fang.
The students are using four agricultural databases to determine the information on the pigs, including pedigrees.
Most of the students in Data+ are rising sophomores and juniors majoring in a variety of majors that include math, statistics, sociology and computer science. The program started in mid-May and runs for 10 weeks and allows students to work on projects using different research methods.
Another group of student that presented on June 18 is working on a research project involving data on food choices.
Kang Ni, Kehan Zhang and Alex Hong are using quantitative methods of study using the “clustering process” to determine a recommendation system for consumers to help them choose healthier food choices. The students are working with The Duke-UNC USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research (BECR) center.
“Consumers already recognize a system to get a certain snack,” said Zhang. “We want to re-do a system to help consumers make better choices.”
The students are basing their research on nutrition information and food purchases from the BECR Data warehouse, which comes from consumer information from throughout the US. This includes food purchases and nutrition information from 2008-2012.
Zhang added that the hardest part was keeping up with information.
“It’s a lot of data in the future, and it will be challenging putting it into use,” said Zhang.
Students in attendance said the food choices data research group provided good information.
“I liked the quantitative methods they used to categorize food,” said Ashlee Valante.
The Data+ research program is sponsored and hosted by the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) and the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI). The funding comes from Bass Connections and from a National Science Foundation grant managed by the Department of Statistical Science.