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“Engineers use data all the time. The thinking in the past was just going through the data and finding what we were looking for. Big data analytics is where you’re trying to get the data to tell you something new. Something you didn’t know before. By necessity all of us at GE have had to start thinking like data analysts and data engineers.”


— James G. “Jerry” Lopez, Ph.D.


–––––––––––––––––––– DATA SCIENCE TEAMS 1. Spreadsheet users


2. Machine learning experts


3. IT and data engineers ––––––––––––––––––––


After his Ph.D., Lopez went


on to work for a startup company outside Boston on high capacity fiber optic networks. When the telecom bubble burst in the early 2000’s he moved to General Dynamics working on another fiber optics program, gyroscopes, and project leadership. Then an opportunity came up almost nine years ago to join the staff at General Electric’s Global Research. At General Electric, Lopez has


been involved with projects that look at the machines that GE builds, such as aircraft engines and gas turbines that generate electricity and power our cities, and wind turbines. “My role is to lead projects


that develop technologies to make those machines work better, more efficiently, burn less fuel, produce more electricity and cost less for the customer,” he explained. Through the course of


developing those technologies and as GE has transformed itself from a physical to a digital industrial company, Lopez says he has had to understand more and more how


www.blackengineer.com


the data and analytics around those machines help us understand the operations of those machines and things about the machines electrical engineers might not know. “Engineers use data all the time,” Lopez said. “The thinking in the past was just going through the data and finding what we were looking for,” he said.


“Big data analytics is where


you’re trying to get the data to tell you something new,” Lopez added. Something you didn’t know before. ‘What can you tell me data that I didn’t think about before or didn’t quite understand about my machine before?


“By necessity all of us at GE have


had to start thinking like data analysts and data engineers,” Lopez said. Excel spreadsheets are not up


to the job. To handle the massive amounts of data for analytics-driven companies such as GE are new tools that run in the Cloud like R. R, also called GNU S, is a


programming language and has become the most popular language for data science and an essential tool for finance and statistical data. Lopez cautions however that


traditional engineering disciplines are still important, because students also have to understand the physics of the machine and how that works.


“What we’re trying to do is to combine the physics and analytics,” he said. “That’s where the whole digital industrial internet thing comes in and what’s going to make engineers of the future valuable” for solving global problems in power & water, oil & gas, energy management, aviation, transportation, and healthcare. Lopez has a daughter who will


soon graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a high- school age son who hopes to study mechanical engineering. If he were talking to his 20-year old self, Lopez said he would simply say “Dream big!” Growing up in a poor neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, Lopez said he had a very limited view of what he could be or what he could do. He certainly didn’t know what the Internet was. “I was extremely fortunate to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s and then the GEM opportunity,” he said. “At eighteen or nineteen, I didn’t


always take the opportunities that were handed to me, because frankly I didn’t think I could dream that big,” Lopez said. S


DIGITAL ISSUE 2017


I USBE&IT 9


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