IM Flash fab director talks big data and succeeding in STEM

What happens in one Internet minute? Over 67,000 photos and 300 hours of video are uploaded, over 400,000 tweets are posted and 136 million emails are sent. The amount of data being transferred today is staggering, and will continue to increase.

Clayton Patch, fab director at IM Flash Technologies, spoke to the Ira A. Fulton College on Thursday about how big data is changing the world as well as the future of all engineering and technology professions.

Data Analytics Capability

“With the amount of information coming at you, and where it’s being stored, you’re going to have to know how to get it,” Patch said.

While computers are becoming better at specialized tasks, modern engineers and scientists are still needed for their ability to analyze and apply data. They need to leverage computers for their strengths by learning some programming, which will help them quickly find the best data.

Another important concept for researchers to understand is what Patch calls the data scientific method. Like usual, the researcher will do the prerequisite research to form a hypothesis around a problem. But, instead of running tests, they will go straight to finding the data set that will prove or disprove the hypothesis.

Good and Clean Data

“Engineers of the future will focus relentlessly on getting good data and keeping that data clean,” Patch said. “Not all data is created equal.”

Due to the sheer amount of data that can be analyzed, it can be easy for computers to find thousands of misleading correlations, which can lead researchers to incorrect conclusions. According to Patch, one of the most important skills those in technical fields need to have is understanding how to separate correlation from causation. In addition, having math and statistical knowledge and knowing how to apply it to real-world situations will help researchers when they are analyzing large data sets.

Constant Learning

“You’ll need to be learning new things to keep up,” he said. “You have to be curious about the information, you’re going to have to go find it.”

Just like finding the right data to support a hypothesis, students will need to take advantage of the resources around them to stay up-to-date in their field, even after they graduate. The Internet is one place where students and those in technical fields can find almost all the information they need to take advantage of their strengths and improve on their weaknesses. Patch told students to be curious and to maintain a lifetime of learning.

“Your engineering education is your foundation, and BYU is setting you up for success,” Patch said. “However, it’s only the first step, and the journey is still ahead of you.”

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