I am a data scientist, with extensive and various experience drawing inference from large data sets. In education research, I work to understand and improve postsecondary student outcomes using the rich, extensive, and complex digital data produced in the course of educating students in the 21st century. In 2011, we launched the E2Coach computer tailored support system, and in 2014, we began the REBUILD project, a college-wide effort to increase the use of evidence-based methods in introductory STEM courses. In 2015, we launched the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, an education technology accelerator within the UM Office of Digital Education and Innovation. In astrophysics, my main research tools have been the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Dark Energy Survey, and the simulations which support them both. We use these tools to probe the growth and nature of cosmic structure as well as the expansion history of the Universe, especially through studies of galaxy clusters. I have also studied astrophysical transients as part of the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment.
Alter’s research grows out of interests in the history of the family, demography, and economic history, and recent projects have examined the effects of early life conditions on health in old age and new ways of describing fertility transitions. He was a founding member of the Eurasia Project on Population and Family History, which compares demographic responses to economic stress in five historical European and Asian societies. He is also co-author of a new system for sharing data and methods for the analysis of life histories from historical sources.
My research centers on the methods, costs, incentives, and implementation of scalable digital curation and archiving services as a core element of the underlying infrastructure for research data management, reproducible research, and data analysis. I study the social and technical dimensions digital curation including data sharing behaviors among scientists in different research domains, techniques for automated metadata extraction and user-contributed metadata, requirements for meaningful reuse of numeric, image, and textual data, and long-term preservation of digital information. My current research projects span projects involving researchers in environmental science and sustainability, social science, bioinformatics, and materials science.