BLACKSBURG, Va., September 30, 2013 -- Sallie A. Keller, a respected and well-known researcher, academic administrator and nationally recognized leader in statistical and data sciences has arrived at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI). Professor Keller and Dr Stephanie Shipp, also a widely known and respected senior researcher in the area of economic and policy analysis, will establish the Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory (SDAL) at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region research facility in Arlington, VA.

From left to right: Sallie Keller and Stephanie Shipp

Professor Keller and the new SDAL bring world class statistical and data science capability to the ambitious VBI initiative in "Information Biology" – the broad-based study of massively interacting systems ranging from molecular to social phenomena. The SDAL establishes a new statistical data sciences wing of VBI’s Advanced Computing and Informatics Laboratories (ACIL) research division. Together, the computational data science capabilities of the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) and Professor Keller’s new “Big-Data” oriented SDAL, the ACIL teams are a critical and world-leading information synthesis presence at VBI.

“The amount of information available at any given moment in the modern world is overwhelming. Every global challenge we face today is rooted in information,” notes Keller. “How do we deal with the modern-day onslaught of information? How can we help make cities – where 50% of the world’s population now lives – smarter?”


The SDAL will address such problems, finding entirely new ways to harness advances in “Big Data” analytics for, e.g., social policy questions.

“Professor Keller, Dr. Shipp and the SDAL bring a leading edge statistical data sciences approach that bookends the advanced computational team and approach of the NDSSL. A unique, timely and urgently needed integrative program for Big Data-oriented analytics is being created.  In addition to her impressive personal research achievements, Sallie is well known for multidisciplinary team building. Since there are no big problems that reside cleanly inside single academic disciplines, her passion for working outside disciplinary boundaries will fit perfectly in the VBI team science, big question approach,” said Chris Barrett, the VBI scientific director.

Dennis Dean, the institute director adds, “ These hires and their emerging analytics group fit perfectly into the strategic research vision we are calling 'Information Biology.' This group provides a terrific complement to our existing strengths and goes a long way toward realizing the ambitious goals we have for the institute.”

Professor Keller established the statistical sciences group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, led the School of Engineering at Rice University, and served as director of the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) Science and Policy Institute (STPI) before coming to VBI. Dr Shipp was the director of the Economic Assessment office, Advanced Technology Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology; Assistant Division Chief at the Census Bureau and has held other leadership positions at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech is a premier bioinformatics, computational biology and systems biology research facility that uses transdisciplinary approaches to science, combining information technology, biology and medicine. These approaches are used to interpret and apply vast amounts of biological data generated from basic research to some of today’s key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and agricultural sciences. With more than 240 highly trained multidisciplinary, international personnel, research at the institute involves collaboration in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, computer science, biology, plant pathology, biochemistry, systems biology, computational immunology, statistics, economics, synthetic biology and medicine. The large amounts of data generated by this approach are analyzed and interpreted to create new knowledge that is disseminated to the world’s scientific, governmental and wider communities.



Tiffany Trent

September 30, 2013