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The University of Alabama

UA Students Bring Home Top Prize in National Analytics Competition

UA Award-Winning SAS Team

UA Award-Winning SAS Team

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Business students from the Culverhouse College of Commerce at The University of Alabama landed the top spot in the seventh annual national 2013 SAS Analytics and Data Mining Shootout in Orlando.

The six-member team made of graduate students from Culverhouse won the top prize for their research into disease prevention. Their strategy for treatment and costs revealed potential savings of nearly $180 million.

The winning UA team sponsored by Dr. Denise McManus, associate professor, management information systems, and Dr. Mike Adams, professor of statistics, included Semhar Michael, of Tuscaloosa; Rong Zheng, of Tuscaloosa via  Zhengzhou, China; Xuwen Zhu, of Tuscaloosa via Shanghai, China; Kevin Crandall, of Tuscaloosa via Huntsville; Emma Grice, of Birmingham, and Chris DiSalvo, of Atlanta.

In addition to receiving a monetary donation, the team also received memberships to the International Institute for Analytics. A second team from UA received honorable mention for their entry. They are May Nam, of Saraland; Patrick Xu, of Tuscaloosa via  Nanjing, China; Lee Sneller, of Tuscaloosa via Saraland; Todd Everett, of Northport; Julie Liu, of Tuscaloosa; and Chen Dia, of Tuscaloosa.

“I’m proud of our students and the fact that they really demonstrated their valuable talents in this competition,” said Dr. J. Michael Hardin, dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce  “The team went above and beyond representing Culverhouse. The recognition is well-deserved. Our student population as a whole continues to excel in challenges that showcase their abilities to be the great business leaders of tomorrow,” Hardin said.

The competition included more than 50 teams and was co-presented by SAS, Teradata and The Institute for Health and Business Insight. The college teams were challenged to develop methods to determine the financial viability of various ecological approaches to disease prevention and health promotion. Armed with SAS Analytics, teams were provided relevant data and instructed to implement appropriate analytics and data mining methods.

“The students were screaming and squealing when they found out they had won the competition,” said Dr. Charles Sox, the department head of information systems, statistics, and management science. “The team was made up of a mix of students with diverse backgrounds in analytics, and I think that is what contributed to their success. I’m ecstatic that they won, but surprised that we have not had sooner success in the competition considering the analytic talent of our students,” Sox said.

In order to assess potential prevention programs, Culverhouse business students used SAS Analytics to predict the total cost and frequency of medical and pharmaceutical expenses for five primary diseases in New Hampshire for the years 2012-2020. In addition to easing pain and suffering associated with these five diseases, the team predicted that approximately $180 million in health care savings would result from implementing six prevention programs, with the greatest impacts coming from accident reduction and drug rehabilitation programs.

“These students produced compelling analytics research about one of our country’s most pressing issues: health care costs and outcomes,” said Jerry Oglesby, SAS director of Global Education and Certification Programs and co-chair of Analytics 2013. “The Analytics and Data Mining Shootout is a great way for students to showcase such prolific modeling skills and develop a network in the analytics community.”

The 2013 SAS Analytics Data Mining Shootout entries were evaluated on the judges’ ability to replicate the analysis using each team’s code, data preparation, model selection, global plan methodology and response plan generation, as well as on the model’s ability to react to change and to propose alternatives. The teams were also judged on the quality of the submitted report detailing the results.

Southern Methodist University took second place, and Oklahoma State University rounded out the top three. The winners were announced at the Analytics 2013 data mining conference in Orlando in October. Each team was represented at the event by one student team member and the faculty sponsor. The second- and third-place schools also received a monetary donation from SAS. All three teams presented their winning solutions at the event.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.