SILS Alumni Take 1st Place in UNC's Research Day in Computer Science Category

May 8, 2014

Ashraf and Robert Award WinnersAlumni Ashraf Farrag (MSIS '10 & CHIP Certificate '11) and Robert Bradford (CHIP Certificate '13), won 1st place for their poster at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Research Day in the Computer Science category. The "symposium of posters and presentations showcasing research from all across campus," took place on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. 

According to the Web site, "University Research Day provides a venue for students, faculty and staff from all disciplines to share their research with the campus community. The event is organized and sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Federation and has two major objectives: 1) to give presenters an opportunity to make their research relevant to a non-specialized audience, and 2) to encourage undergraduate students to become involved in university research efforts."

Upon completing his MSIS degree and the CHIP certificate, Farrag mentored Bradford, a student in the Carolina Health Informatics Program, throughout his practicum which he completed along with his certificate in December 2013. Both Farrag and Bradford currently work at the NC TraCS Institute as research analysts in the Carolina Data Warehouse Health group.
Their poster titled, "Implementing i2b2 as a Research Portal for NC TraCS," not only won during the UNC’s Research Day, it was also accepted for a talk at the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Joint Summit in 2014 and was very warmly received by peer Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) institutions in attendance.  Bradford was also invited to present the poster at the Annual Graduate Student Recognition Celebration in April. 

The project focused on Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2), which is an ontology-based object-oriented database system with a flexible database schema and a user-friendly Web client interface. The ease of use of the i2b2 Web client made it a prime target to be incorporated into a query translation system called OpenFurther, an open source system that connects i2b2 to a federated query engine that allows us to combine and relate data from multiple data sources. By attaching i2b2 to OpenFurther, the need to extract and transform data and insert it into i2b2 is removed. Instead, the OpenFurther engine handles the transformation of data in real time through a series of associations defined for each data source that information is dynamically retrieved.

Enter the Carolina Data Warehouse for Health (CDW-H): a valuable resource for storing clinical data, developed by The University of North Carolina Health Care System (UNCHCS). Since 2004, the CDW-H serves as a central repository for clinical, research and administrative data collected from within the UNCHCS. Farrag and Bradford formulated a plan for a proof of concept practicum for connecting OpenFurther to the CDW-H. For an initial proof of concept, a single domain representing the patient demographic information in the CDW-H was successfully connected to Open¬Further. This process required a test environment that included a shadow schema of the CDW-H loaded with a set of non-specific sample patient data, and ran the OpenFurther server. At the conclusion of the practicum, a user is able to login to the i2b2 Web client, submit a query on the various demographic attributes of patients and retrieve a count of patients that satisfy the query. Achieving this connection demonstrates the ability to configure the engine to communicate with the local data source, the CDW-H. Additionally, it provides confidence in the ability to expand upon the information, such as clinical or administrative data, connected to the engine in the future. 
Portions of this news release were reprinted with permission from an article in "Chipping In."

Photo by Larisa Rodgers.