Affiliated with:

William L. Weaver, Ph.D.

Visiting Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry
University of Maryland Eastern Shore

I am a Systems Designer with experience within the Aerospace/Defense Sector developing new optical diagnostics and testing systems from the discovery of new transducers, through hardware and control software development, to the design and development of data analysis and user experience interfaces. I have 20+ years of experience developing integrated curricula within STEM at the undergraduate level leading to careers in Project Management, Business Analysis, Systems Engineering, and Operations Management.

I have introduced industry standard and recent technologies into the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in Integrated Science, Business, and Technology including Agile Software Development, Arduino Microcontrollers, Raspberry Pi Single Board Computers, Nano Quadcopters, 3D Printing, WEKA Open-Source Machine Learning Software, and the LabVIEW System Design Platform. My personal research interests are in areas of new product development, experimental design, sensors, algorithm development, robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine automation.

What attracted you to data management or IT, and why did you choose to pursue this career?

I was initially attracted to data management by popular culture and education. Spurred by the technological advancements of the space program in the 1960s and early 1970s, popular culture provided a glimpse of a possible future through space operas such as STAR WARS and Battlestar Galactica and a probable future through Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Six Million Dollar Man. As member of the high school class of 1984, computing was transitioning from big iron into the TRS-80, IBM-PC, and Apple II. FORTRAN and BASIC were taught as “computer math” while our accounting and business classes taught COBOL. I envisioned a career in sensors and headed to college with a double major in chemistry and physics. The confluence of digital electronics and programming led me and my senior development team to develop an automatic acid/base titration device and visible spectrometer, both controlled by a Commodore 64. I chose to pursue my Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry and developed an automated Megahertz Amplified Time-Resolved Laser Resonance Raman Spectrometer system developing the operating system in ASYST, a dialect of Forth. At the time, commercial software was not available to analyze the collected data, so as part of my dissertation I created a companion statistical data analysis package to analyze the distribution of energy within molecules during reactions on a picosecond time scale. The ability to collect data and analyze it to extract new knowledge makes me happy.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far, and why has it been important to your career?

After starting my position as an on-site contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base I continued the development of new sensors and measurement instruments initially in Borland C/C++ and then settling into ANSI C using LabWindows/CVI from National Instruments. I evolved into a pattern of developing the data acquisition and control software for new measurements and then developing the data analysis software to deliver answers to questions of importance to our customers in the military and aerospace industry. My greatest accomplishment as a researcher was the development of a common data acquisition and analysis software platform for the analysis of digital images to extract values of velocity, pressure, and strain for the techniques of Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), Doppler Global Velocimetry (DGV), Pressure-sensitive Paint (PSP), Temperature-sensitive Paint (TSP), and Strain-sensitive Skin (S3).

I transitioned to education and joined the faculty at La Salle University to collaboratively design and develop a new undergraduate degree program leading to the B.S. in Integrated Science, Business, and Technology. Over the subsequent 20 years, I incorporated my integration of physics, chemistry, and computer science into a Systems Thinking-based curriculum that led to graduates who excelled in careers involving Project Management, Business Analysis, Systems Engineering, and Operations Management within the pharmaceutical, logistics, and energy sectors.

These accomplishments have served as a training ground for exploring the critical interdependencies among STEM disciplines and people, with special attention paid to the learning processes of both human and computational intelligent systems.

What are the two or three biggest challenges you face as a data management professional / CDO and how can we address them?

The biggest challenge as an educator is introducing the importance of climbing the DIKUW pyramid of Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom. Students start their educational journey having experienced large data systems and networks through Wikipedia, Google search, and social networking and it is mission critical to introduce the technology and techniques used for extracting meaning from the universe of available information and calibrating that meaning against ground truth. Sensing, storing, and retrieving data is a necessary first step but learning from the collected data is of central importance to every industry.

A recent challenge is in combating the rise of algorithmic filters. What is popular, appropriate, good, valuable, and true is placed into our data feeds after passing through algorithms that have been optimized using biased training sets or directly manipulated by network owners to distribute a particular agenda. What was originally thought of as natural data flow from source data to analysis has transformed into a system that no longer analyzes an original event but amplifies the reaction to the event on social networks which inject headlines into the news networks. Analysis of events occurs at the reaction, outrage, and engagement level of knowledge, preventing the development of collective understanding and wisdom and ultimately, learning.

How do you see data management / the role of the CDO / IT changing in the next 2 – 3 years?

If I may use Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones as a literary reference, Obi-Wan was searching for a star and planetary system that did not appear in the Jedi Temple archives. Its gravitational effects on the surrounding systems were evident but the star was missing. Master Yoda asks, “Gravity’s silhouette remains, but the star and all its planets have disappeared. How can this be?” One of the young students replies, “Master. Because someone erased it from the archive memory.”

Cancel culture is steadily working its way through our networks. Works of art that offend our modern sensibilities from books to buildings, to statues, to flags, to music, to people are being erased. The move to “digitize everything” and move business, education, and research activities into the metaverse will generate digital archives that are easily erased and recalibrated. I see the growing importance and rapid adoption of steganography and blockchain technology for certifying data and preventing its alteration and deletion. While IT security has previously centered on theft it will need to pivot and concentrate on the protection of data integrity from our future.  

Do you have any planned next steps for your career?

Like many who participated in the Great Resignation of 2021 my multi-hour daily commute through snarled infrastructure led me to resign from my tenured faculty position. I am currently serving in as a visiting faculty member and actively seeking a permanent position in which I can continue to research and learn along with my students.

What is the single best piece of advice you have received in your data management / IT career so far?  Why has it been so important to you?

The single best piece of advice I have received is to read everything I can by Professor Russell Ackoff. My familiarization with Systems Thinking in 1999 has served as the framework for development of my curricula, courses, and writing ever since.

Can you share something about yourself as a person that people wouldn’t know about you?

I am left-handed while also being right-sided. This means that I operate my computer mouse with my right hand while taking notes with my left hand. I find it difficult to envision a more convenient user interface.  

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