Faculty Member Spends Sabbatical in ItalyFaculty Member Spends Sabbatical in Italy
William Tastle studies systems science on four projects

Management professor William Tastle went to Italy for his fall sabbatical to work on two scholarly projects. Then, he was invited to be a keynote speaker at a global security forum and to join the scientific committee guiding construction of the first Italian supercomputer.

The thread of Tastle’s interest in analysis of complex systems ties together these sabbatical experiences. He’s concentrated in this field since his PhD studies in systems science.

Since 2009, Tastle has served as a Fellow of the Semeion Research Center in Rome. He divided his sabbatical between Rome and Milan, where he was named the first International Scholar at IULM University (University Institute for Modern Languages).

His academic career blends teaching undergraduates at Ithaca – where he is the Business School’s only technology instructor – with teaching IULM post-doctoral students seeking to publish in international journals.

“The post-docs have their education and lack only the English language skills,” said Tastle. “Undergrads are still trying to learn their discipline, and the responsibility to be creative lies with me in finding entertaining ways to motivate them and maintain their attention.”

He had no connection with IULM until its dean emailed an invitation to become the first International Scholar.

“Apparently my research is known to them and they thought I would make a good fit with the university and their particular needs,” he said.

Tastle worked with six post-doctoral students researching and writing articles to be submitted to international journals, the language of which is English. To this he brought his experience of publishing more than 60 referred papers and serving as managing editor of the International Journal of General Systems and editor of the Journal of Information Systems Education.

The students’ topics range from the economic role of poets in a society to an analysis of the diffusion process of modern and contemporary art museums in Europe, to learn about placement of a museum by analyzing its territorial dimension. He helped the students increase the sophistication of their data analysis, and he will edit their papers.

“I take their written prose and ‘translate’ it from Italian-English to English-English, and it is sometimes a serious challenge. The goal is to move these young scholars from their limited publication in Italian-language journals to international journals.”

He does this without being able to speak Italian. “As an American,” he noted, “I am, unfortunately, monolingual.”

Through the winter, he will maintain contact by email and Skype, then visit Milan for a week in April and three weeks in summer as the students conclude writing and revising their papers.

As a Semeion Research Fellow, Tastle is completing two books on data mining.

“There are so many variations on how to extract information from data beyond the traditional, rather simplistic approach of structured query language,” he said. “The term ‘data mining’ has been applied to this kind of effort, and it does seem to capture the intent. However, there are many ways of engaging in data mining, and few extract the same information from a given dataset.”

For the books, he is a both a contributor and editor, along with Semeion’s director.

The first book features 19 chapters, each a journal-quality paper, on using adaptive neural networks in analysis of law enforcement databases. The result of several years of work between Semeion and London’s Metropolitan Police, the book focuses on drug trafficking problems in London.

Tastle wrote the first chapter, an introduction to the different software programs and mathematical algorithms.

“It is clearly not a book for general reading,” he said.

For the second book – on innovative algorithms used to solve some complex problems in bioengineering and bio imaging – he has written two chapters.

While in Milan, he was invited to a global security forum on the Adriatic coast. He spoke about future demands on security providers, who, he said, “will have to glean much more information from their available data, and the technology already exists in large part by using the methods presented in the two books.”

His research included talking with U.S. officials.

“They were quick to suggest that their greatest needs are for affordable body armor that permits them to run down a suspect and engage in a fight if necessary. Current armor is very bulky or very expensive,” he said.

They also want “glasses that identify individuals merely by looking at their faces. The technology already exists, but no company has brought it to the market.”

The conference sponsor – Selex Elsag, a Finmeccanica Company – is also responsible for construction of the Italian supercomputer. Tastle accepted an invitation to serve on the Scientific Committee, which he says will guide the project, provide validation and determine best uses for the technology. The committee will meet at least five times in the next several years.

This research in information systems rarely includes Ithaca students.

“The level of my involvement is such that it is very difficult, at best, to bring undergraduates into my world,” he said.Some IC students have presented their research at national conferences and had papers published in conference proceedings. But “working with motivated students requires meetings almost on the level of a class, and our workload does not permit that kind of continuing involvement,” he said.

In spring semester, Tastle – who received his MBA and PhD from SUNY Binghamton – will teach the basic technology course, Business Systems and Technology. His other courses have included Advanced Spreadsheets for Managers and Database for Managers.

And look for him in the Muller Center, where he might sit in on some Italian classes. While research demands prevented him from completing a basic Italian course in Italy, he still wants to learn:

“I want to be able to talk with fellow researchers in their language, especially now with the supercomputer project.”



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