Experience Article in EdgeDiscovery Magazine

Florence D. Hudson, Executive Director of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub (Northeast Hub), has always been involved in academia and lived at the leading edge of technology. Hudson received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Princeton University and has attended executive education at Columbia University and Harvard Business School. With a distinguished career including designing the sample return mission from the Galilean satellites around Jupiter, Hudson continues to make an impressive impact in the world of research and education. Trained as an Aerospace and Mechanical Engineer, Hudson began her career at Grumman Aerospace Corporation and NASA, followed by a career in Information and Communications Technology, including roles as IBM Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, and Internet2 Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer.

Hudson adores inspiring future generations in STEM fields and consults with industry, government, research, and academia leaders in advanced technology innovations, diversity, and inclusion. “In research and education, you’re surrounded by brilliant people who share, collaborate, and inspire each other. Plus, you have the exciting opportunity to be the wind beneath the wings of students,” says Hudson. “These individuals are going to help solve real-world problems and be the minds who design our future.” Building connections and increasing data science talent are among the core goals of the Northeast Hub, which was created to help accelerate innovation in the national big data ecosystem.

A Hub for Collaboration and Innovation
The Northeast Hub is a collaboration network that is designed to fuel data science innovation by building partnerships within a diverse and inclusive community. As the Executive Director of the Northeast Hub, Hudson brings her over thirty years of experience in advanced technologies to help strengthen partnerships across industry, government, and academia. The Northeast Hub is one of four Big Data Hubs forming a national big data innovation ecosystem. “The Northeast Hub leadership team has chosen four focus areas that are important to our region, have a national impact, and allow us to lead new collaborations,” shares Hudson. “Our main initiatives are in health, education and data literacy, responsible data science, and urban to rural communities. These areas allow us to engage the community, identify the challenges, and celebrate the opportunities. We love to share success stories on our website to further amplify accomplishments of the community and help encourage collaboration.”

Leveraging Big Data
When Hudson served as Senior Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer of Internet2, she would often speak to different universities and meet with CIOs, network engineers, security officers, domain scientists, data scientists, and people within the research, education, and computing community. “While at Internet2, I began to see a broader group of domain scientists who were interested in understanding how to leverage valuable tools like a big data network, and this interest continues to grow,” says Hudson. “More scientists want to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning; they want to bring in petabytes of data and figure out what to do with them, and how to gain new insights to solve scientific and societal challenges. I think there is a real opportunity for us to engage with the science community and help researchers connect with the infrastructures, the computing and networking capabilities, and the storage they need to leverage data to drive innovation.”

As a special advisor for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at Indiana University, Hudson is part of a team working to support the mission of protecting national research endeavors, from developing a comprehensive cybersecurity framework to bringing new cybersecurity research to operational use. With beginnings in the security and defense culture, she continues to help organizations with cybersecurity research transition to practice programs. “While at Internet2, as Principal Investigator on an NSF grant, I worked with researchers who were funded by the NSF to help them transition their research into operational use and pinpointed ways to deploy their findings; asking how do we get the research out into the world?” explains Hudson. She continued those efforts working with the NSF Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

Hudson also serves on the program committee for the annual Computational Approaches for Cancer workshops at SuperComputing conferences, led by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Every year, the conference gets better and better,” shares Hudson. “Data scientists join forces with doctors, biomedical researchers, and bioinformaticists; they learn from each other and become closely integrated. This collaboration is helping transform how the domain scientists are looking at their data and these partnerships are opening new doors to fresh insights and information.”

The Changing World of Higher Education
COVID-19 has had a widespread impact across many industries, with the world of education being possibly changed forever. “The pandemic has brought about so many challenges,” says Hudson. “I’m already working with the COVID Rapid Response Research (RAPID) researchers through the NSF.” Due to the spread of coronavirus disease, the NSF is accepting proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical-care research that can be used immediately to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19. “The goal is to harness the energy and intellect of researchers to focus on this critical problem,” continues Hudson. “The Northeast Hub led the creation of the COVID Information Commons (CIC) at covidinfocommons.net to serve as an open resource to explore NSF-funded research addressing the pandemic, in collaboration with the Midwest, South, and West Big Data Hubs.” The CIC serves as a resource for researchers, decision-makers, and students from academia, not-for-profits, and government to identify collaboration opportunities related to COVID-19 research.

Moving forward, Hudson says institutions face the challenge and opportunity of trying to leverage today’s technology to continue to provide a rich learning experience and create a collaborative, nurturing environment. “Campuses are no longer just a physical center, but a technology center too that enables advanced collaboration,” says Hudson. “There are opportunities we don’t have time to think about right now because of COVID-19, but researchers can continue to look toward tomorrow. We have to work as a team to keep thinking about the good we can do for our future generations.”

“Edge is excellent at identifying member needs and has often reached out to me to see if I can help offer solutions or insight,” shares Hudson. ‘I’m very excited as Edge expands their involvement into the research community.’”

– Florence D. Hudson

Engaging the Community
The Northeast Hub will continue to drive their initiatives forward and engage the community. “One of my favorite sayings is by Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen,’” shares Hudson. “When you listen, you learn, so when I work with students and the community, I listen to the challenges and ideas they have to explore the societal challenges we face, like COVID-19. By doing so, you can identify new ways to help. As a community convener, collaboration hub, and catalyst, the Northeast Hub will keep encouraging the community to get involved and create opportunities to join together.”

Hudson is a longstanding friend and colleague of Edge and has worked with the organization and member institutions for a number of years. “Edge is excellent at identifying member needs and has often reached out to me to see if I can help offer solutions or insight,” shares Hudson. “I’m very excited as Edge expands their involvement into the research community.” Edge is dedicated to enhancing economic development in the state of New Jersey through regional growth and expansion of a resilient high-performance network, technology products, and professional services. EdgeDiscovery offers member institutions a way to expand their research capabilities through advanced computing access, community engagement, and comprehensive expertise and support. “I’m eager to look at what we can do together and how I can help their member community in new ways,” continues Hudson. “Especially by leveraging advanced technology, cybersecurity, and data science, particularly in our four focus areas.”

Developing Security and Safety Standards
Hudson is currently a member of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Technical Committee on Standards, and Chairs a collaborative IEEE and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards working group: IEEE/UL P2933 – Clinical Internet of Things (IoT) Data and Device Interoperability with TIPPSS – Trust, Identity, Privacy, Protection, Safety, Security. “We have over 220 people in the working group, and this is the first time in history that IEEE and UL have ever created a standard together from the beginning,” shares Hudson. “I recently suggested a responsible data science workshop which includes security, privacy, and ethics from the Hub perspective—specifically focused on the clinical IoT in connected healthcare. Eighteen people from the IEEE and UL P2933 working group offered to be on the program committee. We will explore questions like, how do you keep the data secure, how do you keep the device secure, how do you protect the humans from hacking of these devices? We will also discuss the type of framework we can create and the ethics around how we use the data and devices. My goal is to create a larger community, so people can work with each other and help each other to move the ball forward “

Students are invited to participate in this working group and Hudson says one student at the University of Buffalo received a 3-credit class for working with the pre-standards team in this effort, contributing to a published paper on IEEE pre-standards work on clinical IoT data and device validation and interoperability. “We engage students across the globe through their professors and researchers,” says Hudson. “The IEEE and UL working group is a very engagement-oriented crowd and we invite students and members of the education, industry, government and not-for-profit community to get involved.”

Keeping Pace with a Changing World
In August 2020, the Northeast Hub announced their Seed Fund program which is designed to promote collaboration in data science. The Seed Fund will encourage the sharing of data, ideas, and tools across disciplines and community sectors. “Leveraging technology for the educational experience is becoming more and more important,” says Hudson. “Technology has taken a seat at the head of the class and is enabling the new hybrid and virtual education environment. There are new advanced technologies coming out all the time, and with that, rising cybersecurity risks. We are trying to help students leverage advanced technology and manage the risks associated with these advancements. Whether these opportunities are in their life or in their career, we can empower students by teaching them data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning and identifying internship opportunities for them to apply what they learn.”

As an aerospace engineer, Hudson says discovery and innovation is all about the data. “When I was working on our future missions around Jupiter, we did not have a lot of data, so we often had to speculate and look at the metrics from the Chemical Rubber Company (CRC) handbook to assess the potential attributes of the surface of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites. We created hypotheses based on certain types of information and then tested these theories, but what we’ve found is that people need to be taught how to use the data correctly. This is critical to ensure sound outcomes based on the data, whether you’re in medicine, engineering, science, or any discipline. You need to use the data correctly, ethically, with validated provenance, which is key for responsible data science.”

The 4th Industrial Revolution is certainly ushering in a new world, with big data, augmented reality, IoT, artificial intelligence, and automation becoming a regular part of our day to day work and lives. Even with the COVID-19 challenges we are currently facing, Hudson says we must recognize the existing infrastructure that touches many of our homes, communities, libraries, and institutions. “So much is changing to break down the digital divide and offer remote education. Advanced technologies are enabling the future and artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming more prominent. There is an opportunity in the higher education community to continue to leverage technology for good and encourage collaboration and mutual success in data science endeavors. Through these partnerships, we can find new solutions to societal problems and further spur economic development and innovation.”

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