AVAIL is the premier data science engineering group within the State University of New York at Albany. AVAIL is on a mission to empower a new generation of students to assimilate computer science knowledge and subject-matter expertise in the fields of data science and analytics. In doing so, AVAIL is formulating innovative solutions for private business and government.
The focus of AVAIL is on pioneering web-based solutions to real life problems. Dr. Catherine Lawson, AVAIL Director, and her team have created tools to support evidence based decision making in a number of practical fields including transportation, demography, meteorology, and entrepreneurial economics.
AVAIL’s web-applications are designed to be user-friendly, visually immersive and highly responsive. A common statement amongst data science groups is “What question are you trying to answer?” The analysis and visualization tools developed by AVAIL provide the framework to focus and direct researchers to relevant and significant data.
Dr. Lawson is the Director of the Master’s in Regional Planning Program, she is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, an Affiliated Faculty member of the Department of Informatics, in the College of Computing and Information, and is the Director of the Lewis Mumford Center/Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab at the University at Albany – State University of New York. She received her BA in Accounting and Economics from Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, in 1988. She received her MA in Economics in 1995, MURP in Urban Planning in 1997, and PhD in Urban Studies/Regional Science, in 1998, from Portland State University (PSU), Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Lawson is an active member of the Transportation Research Board, having served six years as Chair of the Urban Transportation Data and Information Systems Committee (ABJ30). She was a member of ABJ30 for nine years, served as Secretary for three years, and received a TRB Blue Ribbon Award for her contributions to urban transportation data collection, analysis, and archiving strategies and the establishment of cutting-edge subcommittees, including Computational Transportation and Society (ABJ30(2)). As Chair, she was also responsible for the Subcommittee on Census Data for Transportation Planning (ABJ30(1)). Dr. Lawson was as member of the NCHRP Project 20-5, Topic 42-02 Use of U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) by States and Metropolitan Planning Organizations. She has participated in a number of census workshops, including those focused on the American Community Survey and the Census Transportation Planning Package (CTPP). She has also been a member of the National Research Council Subcommittee on Data Research since 2004. She is currently a member of the Public Transit Executive Board (AP000), a member of the Data and Information Systems Section(ABJ00), and Chair of the newly formed Joint Subcommittee on Transformative Trends in Transit Data.
Her research interests include: advanced uses of archived intelligent transportation systems (ITS) data and spatial analysis/geographic information systems (GIS) applications for transportation planning and analysis for passenger travel, transit (including ferries), and freight. As the Director of the Lewis Mumford Center (LMC) at the University at Albany, she established the University at Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab (AVAIL), a “new generation” research lab, specializing in advanced data-driven visualization and informatics, using data science strategies and techniques.
Dr. Lawson has extensive knowledge of travel surveys, particularly activity-based surveys (e.g., the Portland, Oregon activity dataset used in her dissertation). She previously conducted research for NYMTC, reviewing their surveying practices and recommending the use of GPS for a series of NYMTC pilot studies. She has also conducted extensive research on the best practices for GPS data management, including the use of compression and query science with the development of the SQUISH algorithm.
Before Joining AVAIL in the summer of 2014, Program Manager, Eric Krans, spent eight years building food access programs at the successful non-profit Capital Roots in Troy, NY, including the often replicated mobile produce market The Veggie Mobile. Eric wears many hats at AVAIL: Project Management, Human Resources, Grant Writing, Graphic Design, Web-Design, amd Strategy. He is a song-writer and recording artist and a member of the band The Parlor.
Programmer, Eric Conklin, joined AVAIL as a graduate student, pursuing a Masters in Computer Science. He graduated in December 2014 and joined AVAIL full-time in January 2015.