“Diving Into Data: Harnessing the Power of Information”


Dr. Niall Gaffney, Dr. Michael Hasler

Dr. Niall Gaffney
Director of Data Intensive Computing
Texas Advanced Computing Center

Dr. Michael Hasler
Lecturer/Associate Director, McCombs School of Business
The University of Texas at Austin

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
5:45 p.m. – Networking Reception
6:30 p.m. – Presentation

The era of Big Data is upon us. We are now collecting data at a rate faster than we can manage it using traditional tools. But data unto itself is of no intrinsic value: its real significance lies in how we harness and apply it. Research analytics make it possible to identify trends and insights that are not otherwise readily apparent — variables that are often described as “unknown unknowns.” Many leaders don’t understand why they should care about big data and data analytics, or they don’t realize how it affects their organizations. Others buy into the need but are intimidated by the first step: figuring out how to get into big data without sinking the ship. During this discussion, two experts from different backgrounds will share their perspectives, expertise and advice on the future of data in business. They will also share how researchers and businesses have been using data analysis to answer fundamental questions facing very different fields, and how, though their problems are different, techniques for using data are similar. Issues and challenges facing all data include:

  • Developing ways for people to gain insights from their data, even if it was gathered for completely different purposes
  • The mythology currently associated with data
  • The questions and the answers data analytics can reveal
  • The issues of data usage ethics, transparency, and privacy (and how this is really no different than how we work in the analog world)


Niall Gaffney is the Director of Data Intensive Computing at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin. Gaffney most recently served as the principal computer scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) for the Hubble Space Telescope data archive and the Hubble Legacy Archive Project. Gaffney has managed some of the richest astronomical data ever recorded in terms of scientific and public impact. In his new role at TACC, Gaffney will oversee the center’s “Big Data” strategy, which includes storage and storage systems, data collections, analytics (data mining and statistics), and architectures for data driven science and data intensive computing. Gaffney’s most recent work at STScI, included responsibility for creating and managing the systems for archiving, cataloging, discovering, visualizing and distributing data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Kepler project, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. He has authored numerous papers and publications on data software systems. Gaffney earned his doctor’s, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in astronomy from The University of Texas at Austin. He was a NASA Graduate Student Research Project Recipient and earned a McDonald Observatory Graduate Research Fellowship.

Michael Hasler is the program director of the M.S. in Business Analytics in IROM at McCombs School of Business, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. Previously he served as Associate Academic Director for the Supply Chain Management Center of Excellence. The bulk of his professional experience was in the auto industry in Supply Chain and Operations, and he moved to high technology in the semiconductor equipment industry with Applied Materials in Austin. While at Applied he helped launch their Supply Chain Management activity, led operations for a $1 billion division, and was the Head of Global Materials Operations. As one of the operations executives at Applied, he was chosen to help create and lead Applied Materials’ Leadership Development program. With his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), Mike spent over twenty years in the auto industry working for different companies including General Motors and Nissan; as well as owning a company that was part of the auto, defense, and engineering industries. During this time, he attended the University of Virginia as a GM Fellow, where he obtained a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering.