Data Science, AI, and Space Are All Connected for New AAS Fellow Kirk Borne
Kirk Borne— a top speaker and digital influencer in the areas of Big Data, Data Science, and AI—works in data science and AI at Booz Allen, where he serves as an Executive Advisor, the firm’s first and only Principal Data Scientist, and in 2019 was named the firm’s first and only Data Science Fellow. His work is rooted in another aspect of his professional identity: astrophysicist.
Before Borne joined the firm in 2015, he supported NASA projects including the Hubble Space Telescope and NSF projects including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (recently renamed the Vera Rubin Observatory), applying his expertise in large scientific databases and information systems, scientific data mining and management, and informatics to our understanding of space. He also taught the next generation as a professor of astrophysics and computational science at George Mason University.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) recognized Borne for his achievements in astrophysics with a new accolade, AAS Fellow. AAS Fellows are recognized for original research and publication, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy and society. In addition to this new honor, in 2016, Borne was elected Fellow of the International Astrostatistics Association for his contributions to the advancement of astroinformatics throughout the world.
A passion for data and discovery
Borne’s work in machine learning and data mining started with astronomy and space science data, then branched out into researching and applying those techniques and algorithms to many other data types and domains: earth science and climate data, digital marketing, healthcare, finance, smart energy, transportation, and more.
“I have always loved scientific discovery, and this world [of data analytics and data science] allows me to do discovery bigger and better all the time,” Borne wrote in Humans of Analytics, an online publication celebrating analytics professionals. “I enjoy the challenge of modeling a system in a way that explains the data and that enables prediction and deeper understanding from the data.”
Exploration and education in intersecting worlds
Today at Booz Allen, Borne’s worlds of astronomy and data science are overlapping more and more. Increasingly, Booz Allen has been working at the intersection of space, data science, and AI, with projects including:
- Data science and visualization to optimize trajectories that return spacecraft safely to earth
- A digital model for NASA’s planetary exploration systems that captures every element from requirements to the physical structure and shows how changes to one affects the other
- Algorithms, AI and machine learning models to increase domain awareness in space