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Faculty research seeks to solve big problems

  • Author: WKU News
  • Author: Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
Faculty research seeks to solve big problems

People can go their whole lives without understanding data mining and business analytics, but Dr. Leyla Zhuhadar, WKU Assistant Professor in Information Systems, and her students use applied research in business analytics and data mining to improve businesses operations each semester.

Through data mining, Dr. Zhuhadar examines databases of information in order to improve outcomes. Then, with business analytics, she analyzes an organization’s operations to provide information for better decision making.

Dr. Zhuhadar believes in helping students understand the fundamental principles by mapping them to applied examples in their life. She shows students the big picture of their field by linking concepts in each course to the whole program. At the same time, Dr. Zhuhadar motivates students to develop their own critical thinking skills. The impact of her philosophy toward research and teaching is evident in her current students and recent alums.

“Dr. Zhuhadar stayed after every class to answer questions and always made time to meet outside class to provide further direction when it was needed,” said Corey Travis, Zhuhadar’s former student and now WKU alumnus.  “It always appeared that Dr. Zhuhadar was personally vested in my learning and development as a student.” Travis received a Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grant for his research, presented at an international conference, continued work in data mining in Florida, and then moved him back to Kentucky to lead a new project in Business Analytics. Travis is just one example of Dr. Zhuhadar’s contribution to student success. 

During the last two years, Dr. Zhuhadar advised three students awarded with FUSE grants for research in business, profit analysis, and predictive analytics to better enhance consumer lending. Other students have presented and won awards for research with improving ecosystems, detecting spam messages, and affinity-based marketing. Overall, Dr. Zhuhadar has mentored or advised nearly 30 students in research projects over the last year.

While Dr. Leyla Zhuhadar’s students’ achievements are significant, her personal research pursuits can impact the world. Two recent projects include business data analytics research related to the Zika Virus and data mining to improve retention.

In 2016, Zhuhadar collaborated with Scarlett Marklin, Kirk Atkinson, and Evelyn Thrasher to author research that can help prepare a hospital for the Zika Virus. Using business analytics, Zhuhadar created a program that will allow healthcare facilities to determine how many physicians and nurses staffing needs in relationship to the number of patients per hour.

Using data mining, Dr. Zhuhadar, Dr. Jerry Daday, Dr. Bruce Kessler, Dr. Tuesdi Helbig, and Marklin recently finished research on analyzing retention of students pursuing a degree in math. In an analytical model, Zhuhadar and co-authors examined how the order of courses taken by students can help or hinder their progress.

Dr. Leyla Zhuhadar began working at WKU as a graduate assistant in 2003, earned her Master’s Degree in Computer Science at WKU, and worked at the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach (DELO) while pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Louisville.  Dr. Zhuhadar has been an assistant professor at WKU since 2013.

Dr. Leyla Zhuhadar’s applied research is directed toward solving today's “big data problems by using data mining methodologies.”

To learn more about Dr. Zhudar's research, contact the Gordon Ford College of Business by emailing gfcb@wku.edu or calling 270-745-6311.

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