Computer science professor’s work in Big Data earns cumulative work award

Jorge Espinoza

Building things is associate professor of computer science Sangmi Pallickara’s passion. Big data helps Pallickara put the pieces together to open more channels for human connectedness.

Pallickara was recently awarded the Award for Excellence in Scalable Computing for Middle Career Researchers by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Technical Committee on Scalable Computing for her work surrounding big data. By using computer science, Pallickara is building more channels for human connectedness.


Pallickara said that computer science is one of the closest sciences we have to everyday human life. She said that without computer science, we wouldn’t be able to have certain services, such as Air BnB or Uber, that have thrived off the development of computer science.

“We create new types of relationships between humans based on this type of technology,” Pallickara said. “Its such an exciting area because it really changes humans life and that’s why I love it.”

Darrell Whitley, professor of computer science, defines big data as large sets of data that need analyzation.

Any number of fields that might deal with billions, trillions, or even larger pieces of information in support of some type of computation,” Whitley said.

Pallickara said since we produce so much data, it’s hard for traditional systems to analyze such large datasets.

When it comes to that scale, a lot of the algorithms and systems we have so far are not really useful for us, they can’t really solve our problems,” Pallickara said. “When it comes to that stage we call it a big data problem.”

Max Roselius, second-year computer science graduate student, said that Pallickara’s extensive knowledge of computer science and big data gives her the ability to solve these types of problems.

She has a vast technical knowledge in the area of computer science and big data and has passed much of it down to me in the way of projects and research for developing new ways to tackle problems,” Roselius said. “This knowledge is crucial for innovating new technologies for solving new and challenging problems.”

Whitley said Pallickara’s research and teaching abilities are what makes her stand out as a faculty member.

She is a very balanced faculty member in the sense that she has taught in lower division classes as well as senior and graduate level computer science classes, and she’s done a fabulous job in her teaching,” Whitley said. “She has the publications and the research that you want to see in a strong faculty member.”


Roselius said that after taking one of Pallickara’s classes, Pallickara has been a positive influence on Roselius work in computer science.

She persuaded me and pushed me to do more than I thought possible on my own,” Roselius said. “She has been a wonderful advisor, helping me to tackle difficult problems and pushing me to do my best.”

Pallikcara said that the core of her research is to make big data more intuitive. She notes that if humans can’t interpret the data it’s of no use to them, and with that she added there is a process to solving these types of problems.

“There is a flow that will take you back and forth based off of the current stage of the flow,” Pallickara said. “What we are considering very importantly in our lab is how can we actually deliver this data very fast to humans and more friendly so that human intelligence can be apart of this analytics flow.” 

And while navigating the workflow process can be challenging, for Pallickara, the limitless possibilities that computer sciences give her makes her work all the more meaningful.

“I’m a builder, I love building things, but the thing I really love about the computer sciences is that the only limitation is my imagination,” Pallickara said. “If you imagine something you can build it, its unlimited creativeness.”

Jorge Esipnoza can be reached at or on Twitter @jorgespinoza14.