We just can’t ignore a record breaking arrangement that is on the order of magnitude of 3 times bigger than anything that has ever happened in the University’s history.
As the field of â€œbig dataâ€ continues to grow in importance, N.C. State University has landed a big coup â€“ a major lab for the study of data analysis, funded by the National Security Agency.
A $60.75 million grant from the NSA is the largest research grant in NCSUâ€™s history â€“ three times bigger than any previous award.
The Laboratory for Analytic Sciences will be launched in a Centennial Campus building that will be renovated with money from the federal agency, but details about the facility are top secret. Those who work in the lab will be required to have security clearance from the U.S. government.
NCSU officials say the endeavor is expected to bring 100 new jobs to the Triangle during the next several years. The university, already a leader in data science, won the NSA contract through a competitive process.
NCSU university already has strengths in computer science, applied mathematics and statistics and a collaborative project with the NSA on cybersecurity. The university also is in the process of hiring four faculty members for its new data-driven science cluster, adding to its expertise.
â€œIt is a big deal,â€ said NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson. â€œItâ€™s a natural fit for us because as an institution weâ€™ve been about data analysis and big data for a long time. I think the National Security Agency realized that when they selected us as a university partner.â€
Itâ€™s unclear exactly what kind of work will be done at the new lab, but Woodson said NCSU wonâ€™t be involved in the federal agencyâ€™s mass surveillance programs that have been the subject of controversy in the past few months.
â€œAs a university, weâ€™re not going to be involved in the operational intelligence work of the National Security Agency,â€ Woodson said. â€œOur partnership with them is really about the science of big data and data analysis. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s anything more difficult right now for both government and the private sector than making sense out of the deluge of data that weâ€™re all swimming in every day.â€
The chancellor said big data is important for national security but also many other fields. Those with expertise in data analysis are in high demand, he said. Graduates of NCSUâ€™s masterâ€™s in data analytics have job placement rates of 90 percent and command starting salaries of over $100,000.
In the announcement from the NSA, the agencyâ€™s director of research, Michael Wertheimer, said NCSU is the ideal location for the new lab.
â€œWe have chosen the Research Triangle area for its vibrant academic and industry interest in large data analytics, and NC State for having the nationâ€™s first, and preeminent, advanced degree program in data analytics,â€ Wertheimerâ€™s statement said. â€œBy immersing intelligence analysts with NC Stateâ€™s diverse group of scientists, we hope to discover new and powerful ways to meet our foreign signals intelligence and information assurance missions â€“ giving us an edge to better protect the nation.â€
NCSU already has a long history with â€œbig data.â€ Business software giant SAS, which is based in Cary, traces its roots to N.C. State.
Billionaire co-founders Jim Goodnight, the companyâ€™s CEO, and John Sall met when they were graduate students at NCSU and started the business in 1976. The privately held company generated $2.87 billion in revenue last year and has 13,708 employees worldwide, including 5,159 in Cary.