Open Data Rockstar: George Sivulka

October 30, 2015 9:56 am PST | Data as a Service, Data Rockstars

SivulkaScreenshotHigh school student George Sivulka is the founder and lead organizer of NASA’s Space Apps Next Gen, a high school hackathon dedicated to teaching and inspiring students to solve global scientific challenges using NASA datasets. Sivulka has been working as a NASA research intern for two years, conducting data analysis research in computational physics simulations studying landline and IED detection. He’s also researched and visualized nosocomial disease transmission with the Mount Sinai Medical System. Sivulka is passionate about the fusion of computer science with the physical sciences and space technology, and using programming and data to solve real world problems.

Tell us about your work in open data.

Knowing that I can wake up in the morning and do science wherever I am, and whenever I want to is extremely empowering. Every day after I go to school, I usually go to engineering labs or my mentor’s offices to work on my computational research (much of which is based in working with open scientific data!). Most days, I’ll be studying different datasets, involving fields that range from biology and epidemiology to cosmology and astrophysics. Whenever I can find free time, I enjoy programming for fun, and you can usually find me at a collegiate hackathon over the weekends. Outside of the tech world, I’m also a huge outdoors guy and an avid stargazer!

What’s your open data inspiration?

I’m obsessed with unlocking the potential of a computer to do scientific research; it’s become a frontier that has kickstarted a new wave of scientific discoveries, and I’ve done everything I can to ride that wave. It’s thrilling, and vital to the person I am to be on that frontier, to be exploring, searching, and discovering. To know that I can change the world, discover something, and use data to make a difference is astounding, and I want to share that with as many people as I can.  

What does the open data community need to pay more attention to?

The open data community needs to pay more attention to the multitudes of scientific data publicly available. There’s myriad untouched datasets with information about the world around us. Discoveries are waiting to be made, and until the data community actively approaches them, they’ll lie stagnant.

Favorite open data apps you use yourself?

I’m a huge fan of Quartz’s active satellites visualization, which plots every functioning satellite in orbit in an interactive way. I’ve also found Space Tag, a Space Apps NYC Hackathon solution that sorts and visually connects NASA datasets, to be incredibly useful. Another app that’s really interesting and fun is Loss of the Night, a stargazing aide that gathers data from its users about light pollution severity. Thus, users add to a worldwide citizen-based data collection project, GLOBE at Night, for mapping light pollution.

What question would you ask the next Open Data Rockstar?

Across all fields Open Data has the potential to change lives on all levels of society. How can we make open data more relevant to better bring its benefits to the public?

Where to find Sivulka:

Find out more about Sivulka on his LinkedIn profile page. George Sivulka was one of many featured speakers at this week’s Socrata Customer Summit.




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