The Year 2019

Page 33


Harnessing the Power of Big Data Ruth Williams, Life Fellow, explains the ground-breaking achievement of Girtonian mathematician Nikhil Shah


he term ‘Big Data’ was coined in the 1990s to describe data sets that are too large to be dealt with by traditional computing methods – for example, the results of particle physics experiments at CERN, human-genome sequences, meteorological data and, of course, the sum of all information held on the internet. Handling Big Data presents many challenges such as storage, access, transmission, analysis and visualisation. For large data sets to be useful, it must be possible to categorise their contents, identify correlations and make predictions, as well as screen out useless information. The study of Big Data has become a very active scientific area in the last twenty years and is likely to become increasingly important. Inevitably, the tools developed for dealing with Big Data are very complicated technically. Parallel computing is needed, with many tasks performed simultaneously rather than in sequence. When the data is multidimensional – say, information on quantities in three spatial dimensions – it can be represented as data cubes or, to use the mathematical term, tensors. This is the approach taken by a

Girton Mathematics graduate, Nikhil Shah, who was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Asian Business Awards in London on 22 March 2019. Starting with material from Vector Calculus, a course in the first year of the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos, Shah developed the S-Cube Cloud with colleagues at Imperial College, London, where he did his PhD. In technical terms, the S-Cube Cloud is an artificial-intelligence platform for Big Data processing that applies computational optimisation to industrial sensor data. This has major applications in the energy sector, from subsurface exploration to power plants to refineries to carbon storage. Shah and co-workers have applied the S-Cube Cloud to seismic data to predict rock velocities ahead of drilling in offshore locations. This can guide the placement of wells and improve drilling accuracy, and is being used to locate candidate rock formations for carbon storage in the North Sea. Shah’s pioneering work has a very promising future in bringing enhanced automation and

efficiency to data-intensive industrial processes. It should help accelerate a much needed transition to greener energy provision.

The Year


Articles inside

Lists article cover image


pages 153-170
Obituaries article cover image


pages 127, 136-152
In Memoriam article cover image

In Memoriam

pages 127, 129-135
Births and Marriages article cover image

Births and Marriages

pages 127-128
Roll of Alumni article cover image

Roll of Alumni

pages 121-126
Student Reports article cover image

Student Reports

pages 93-120
College Reports article cover image

College Reports

pages 75-87, 89-92
Fellows' Profiles article cover image

Fellows' Profiles

pages 67-74
Jane Martin Poetry Prize article cover image

Jane Martin Poetry Prize

page 66
Lawrence Room Book article cover image

Lawrence Room Book

pages 64-65
Social Hub article cover image

Social Hub

pages 62-63
Honeysuckle Walk article cover image

Honeysuckle Walk

pages 60-61
Forty Years of Men article cover image

Forty Years of Men

pages 57-59
Girton150: Honorary Fellows and Anniversary Lectures article cover image

Girton150: Honorary Fellows and Anniversary Lectures

pages 53-56
Girton150: Festival Weekend article cover image

Girton150: Festival Weekend

pages 50-52
Jean Lindsay on Manners article cover image

Jean Lindsay on Manners

pages 48-49
Dons of the Old School article cover image

Dons of the Old School

pages 45-47
Senior Tutors in Conversation article cover image

Senior Tutors in Conversation

pages 42-45
Architect of the Future article cover image

Architect of the Future

pages 40-41
A New Generation of Girton Historians article cover image

A New Generation of Girton Historians

pages 34-39
Asian Business Award article cover image

Asian Business Award

page 33
Balzan Prize article cover image

Balzan Prize

pages 31-32
Girton in Novels article cover image

Girton in Novels

pages 28-30
Delia Derbyshire, Pioneer in Sound article cover image

Delia Derbyshire, Pioneer in Sound

pages 24-27
Amy Ida Louisa King, Girton's First Black Student article cover image

Amy Ida Louisa King, Girton's First Black Student

pages 20-23
Hertha Ayrton, Ground-Breaking Scientst article cover image

Hertha Ayrton, Ground-Breaking Scientst

pages 15-19
A History of Girton in Ten Pioneers article cover image

A History of Girton in Ten Pioneers

pages 14, 27, 32, 39, 41, 49, 52, 56, 63, 71
Profile: Dame Karen Pierce article cover image

Profile: Dame Karen Pierce

pages 10-14
A Letter from the Mistress article cover image

A Letter from the Mistress

pages 5-8