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Department of Statistics

Storytelling with Big Data

By Audrey Hambright

Producers and veterinarians are continually looking for a more efficient way to manage records for their cow herds and health programs. Technology in its constant evolution has provided new ways to manage and collect data, but how can they use it effectively?

Jiena Gu, Project Coordinator, Beef Cattle InstituteThe Beef Cattle Institute has recently brought on new talent to help optimize the way data is collected and how it’s used. But for Jiena Gu, it’s not just about collecting data, it’s about telling a story.

Originally from the Guangdong Province in China, Gu came to K-State with a degree in bioengineering. Since then she has completed her public health certificate and is currently working towards a master’s degree in statistics which she will receive this August. Prior to joining the BCI team this summer, she worked as a statistics specialist in the internal admission and recruiting office for Kansas State University.

Gu was drawn to statistics while majoring in biology and public health where she realized the importance of data. “If you want somebody to believe you, you have to use the data to tell a story,” Gu said.

As project coordinator for the BCI, Gu provides data management and analytical support for BCI projects related to the creation of interactive decision tools and visualization systems for production and research data.

Gu hopes to help people understand their data better, to visualize it and tell a story. More specifically, she aims to help producers and veterinarians create a better strategy for cattle health. Gu is currently working on creating an interactive analytical dashboard that will help the beef producer and beef cattle industry make better decisions and strategies. Gu will use big data mining and machine learning methods to gain useful insight from big data, improving management and ultimately increasing disease prevention.

“Jiena has skills in analyzing and visualizing data to generate information needed for decision makers,” said Dr. Brad White, interim director for the BCI. “These skills will help BCI provide actionable information to the beef industry.”

In addition to developing interactive dashboards for data management, Gu will also be providing guidance in project analysis for students working with research data.

“If you understand the data better, you can make a better decision,” she said. And better decisions, by Gu’s standards, will help tell a better story.

This article first appeared in the August 2016 issue of The Grazier, a newsletter of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University. It is reproduced here with their permission.

Jiena Gu received a Master's degree in Statistics from KSU in 2016.  Her major advisor was Dr. Wei-Wen Hsu and her master's report was entitled "Monitoring the Progression of Alzheimer's Disease with Latent Transition Models".