As part of the 2020 University of South Carolina (UofSC) National Big Data Health Science Conference (https://www.sc-bdhs-conference.org), UofSC Big Data Health Science Center (BDHSC) launched the First Student Case Competition in Columbia, SC from Feb 7-9, 2020. In its inaugural year the competition attracted 19 teams from 8 major universities in the U.S. and world, including University of South Carolina, Allen University, Baylor University, Duke University, Nanjing Medical University (China), Oklahoma State University, Purdue University, and University of Alabama.

The analytics case received by the student teams was inspired by the real-life events that took place on January 6, 2005, in Graniteville, South Carolina. At roughly 2:40AM EST, two trains collided near the Avondale Mills plan in Graniteville exposing the residents of Graniteville and Aiken cities to chlorine gas. This incident cost the lives of several residents and imposed an economical cost exceeding $100,000,000. During this incident, health systems were overwhelmed with the number of patients and symptoms affecting the patients. The greatest challenge was identifying which symptoms are associated to which chemicals for each patient. Currently more than 350 chemicals are transported through the US transportation system that can be the subject of future incidents. The main goal of this year’s case competition was to develop analytic tools that mitigate the human and financial cost of similar incidents in the future.

The Big Data Health Science Case Competition was open to all accredited educational institutions based in the United States and in the world. Currently enrolled undergraduate and/or graduate students in any discipline such as engineering, business, healthcare, or analytics, were eligible to enter. The teams’ presentations were judged based on the following criteria:

▪ Organization and Presentation of Facts
▪ Accuracy
▪ Relevance
▪ Case Objectives Met
▪ Professional Appearance and Timeliness
▪ Ability to Answer Judges’ Questions

Eduardo Coronado Sroka, Bin Han, and Sam Voisin from Duke University received the top prize of $3,000 on Sunday, February 9th, 2020 from Dr. Thomas Chandler, Dean of UofSC Arnold School of Public Health, following his opening and welcome remarks of the UofSC National Big Data Health Science Conference. The Second Place prize of $2,000 was awarded to Alireza Nasiri, Jing Jin and Steph-Yves Louis from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC while the Third Place prize of $1,000 was presented to Matthew Leatherwood, Christopher Robinson, and Mary Margaret Monistere from the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. Four additional teams received the honorable mention.

The competition provided students with an opportunity to present their analysis, and recommendations to a broad panel of judges consisting of academia, business and healthcare industry.

This was a great opportunity to put the skills we’ve learned in class to the test. We had to not only think outside the box to provide a solution that was scalable and feasible, but also that addressed medical, business and technical needs. One thing that made this experience great was interacting with industry and academic experts in these areas, and hear what were their concerns during the Q&A sessions after each presentation,” said Corona. “The Big Data Health Science Conference also allowed us to interact with leaders in industry and academia. The whole experience was invaluable for us as we look to our future careers,” added Voisin.

The Big Data Health Science Case Competition aims to provide enthusiastic teams of graduate and senior undergraduate students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge to the analysis of big datasets in healthcare. It is designed to be a hands-on experience that tests the students’ analytical, teamwork, communication, and presentation skills in order to build a talent pipeline in big data health science.

The case competition was well-organized and open to students with different backgrounds, enhancing interdisciplinary collaborations and promoting innovative solutions,” said Han.

The case competition represented a phenomenal opportunity of growth for our team collectively and individually. With the chance to compete at a National level, we found this two-day event in which we applied our programming skills and knowledge to solve a real-world problem, very rewarding. The competition was extremely well organized. The rules were clear and fair. All of us shared a similar experience throughout the contest,” said Nasiri, Jin and Louis.

Through this competition, we learned agile processes and how to lean on one another much like we will on teams when we enter the corporate world. It is one of the most valuable experiences in our graduate programs to date,” said The University of Alabama Team.

The UofSC Big Data Health Science Case Competition will take place again in February 2021 on UofSC campus and strives to be of the top healthcare analytics case competitions in the U.S. and world.

About BDHSC:
The University of South Carolina Big Data Health Science Center (BDHSC), as part of UofSC’s Excellence Initiative, serves as a campus-wide interdisciplinary enterprise that conducts cutting-edge research and discovery, offers professional development and academic training, and provides service to the community and industry. The BDHSC consists of five content cores (Electronic Health Records Core, Genomics Core, Bionanomaterials Core, Geospatial Core, and Social Media Core) and two functional hubs (Technology Hub and Business/Entrepreneurship Hub) that promote the utilization of Big Data analytics in health-related research, service, and academic training. The leadership structure of the BDHSC follows a team science approach with two MPIs (Xiaoming Li & Bankole Olatosi). The BDHSC is based on a strong leadership team with a strong campus-wide representation of more than 40 faculty/staff from different departments and colleges/units, UofSC’s existing strengths in data science and health sciences, and innovative approaches that ensure optimal functionality and sustainability. The BDHSC is governed by a Steering Committee and supported by Internal and External Advisory Committees.

About the University of South Carolina National Big Data Health Science Conference:
The Big Data Health Science Conference is a signature annual event of the UofSC Big Data Health Science Center (BDHSC). The Conference was held on February 9 -11, 2020 and took in the South Carolina Convention Center in Downtown Columbia, SC. Highlights of the conference included world renowned keynote speakers in the field from the health industry, academia and government. Unlike other conferences, there were also be hands-on learning workshop training on big data methods. Other workshops and thematic sessions spanned electronic health records, geospatial, social media, genomics and nano-biomaterial. https://www.sc-bdhs-conference.org