Stevens Institute Teaches Data Visualization

January 25, 2017 | Education, Science & Technology

By Briana Vannozzi

More than a decade after Tom Cruise’s character manipulated data on a multi-screen, futuristic system in “Minority Report” the real life software is being used here, for the first time in an academic setting.

The Hanlon 2 Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology, designed for financial analytics and data visualization. In other words, helping students become tech-savvy financial managers.

“What we’ve added in here are what you might call, in the old language, audio and visual capabilities,” said George Calhoun, director of the Hanlon Financial Systems Center.

The million dollar lab is equipped with several cameras and high-def screens, allowing for on location and remote presentations. There’s software to conduct trading simulations and develop financial models, using real-time and historical market data. All to support finance and data-intensive fields.

“Our human apparatus for absorbing data is much more visually oriented than it is reading lines on a spreadsheet or something like that. So that revolution has been pushing itself into the corporate world with this technology. We’re the first university to put it into a classroom like this,” Calhoun said.

Hanlon 2 joins the school’s existing financial systems lab that opened five years ago. Both are gifts from benefactors Sean and Cathy Hanlon. And demand is growing. Finance-related majors are approaching 10 percent of Stevens’ footprint, up from zero a dozen years ago.

“To me the value is not just that it’s a great tool to present the data but it gets them used to being in the environment that they’re going to be in when they get into these high tech business settings,” Calhoun said.

“In my first semester here we actually were required to become Bloomberg certified. So we had to take an eight-hour course through Bloomberg as well as have an actual one credit semester class,” said freshman Nicholas Falvo.

Career website Glassdoor recently gave data-related jobs the top spots on its annual list for best jobs in America. And the number one spot? That went to data scientists.

“Everyone, especially in the quantitative finance major across the school, is very data driven. Which is where the world is going in a sense. Even not just finance, people go to other ones. One of my classmates had an interview with Draft Kings the other day. Which is not a financial company, but they’re still using data to drive their business forward,” said senior Kevin Murphy.

Calhoun says much of the American economy is transforming to a high-tech business model, and changing at break-neck speeds. Their hope is to keep students ahead of the curve, with a Hanlon 3 in their sights.