Dr. Mehmed Kantardzic on the past, the present and the future of Computer Science

Mehmed KantardzicAt the twilight of the 20th century, the Bosnian city of Sarajevo came under siege. It was during those years that Dr. Mehmed Kantardzic, Bosnian native with a background in the sciences and engineering and current member of the department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, organized classes and met with students in a bid to keep some sense of normalcy. Such is his dedication, not only to educating a new generation of students, but in his own research, that he would brave a literal battleground to teach.

After the war, he immigrated to the United States, landing a job at the University soon thereafter, where he has worked for the interim 21 years. He admits, “They were refugees here in Louisville. I was lucky that at the UofL they accepted me almost immediately.”

For Dr. Kantardzic, it wasn’t the dangers of war or the immigration that cut the deepest, but something much more sublime. He recalls, “What’s interesting is that maybe at that time, after four or five years in the war… can you imagine the worst part of that time is that I was blocked. Computer science was booming and we didn’t even have access to that information.”

He adds, “So, I tried to jump into a new field, that was called the data mining field. It was established in 1996, and it was something new. I had the background for it for statistics and machine learning, these are the fields that are the infrastructure for data mining. That was the time that these data mining courses started all over the world. I published the first textbook in the field in 2002. It was one of the first data mining world. Hundreds of universities still use that book.”

Now Dr. Kantardzic applies his experience and expertise towards data mining and knowledge discovery, fields of study dedicated to parsing an ever-increasing pool of data in a sensible and digestible manner.

He explains, “Essentially, what we are talking is a huge amount of data is produced with our current technology. For a long time, people were thinking how can I collect the data? In today’s world, data collection is very cheap. You have these sensors all over the world. What’s happening is that at once, you have a huge amount of data that nobody is using. If you are thinking about Google and all the data. What is stored in Google, what is stored on Facebook, it looks like everybody is using everything now? The question is, how to make good use of the data to improve decision making processes in all the fields.”

Despite the flood of available information, from GPS to social media sources and beyond, Dr. Kantardzic remains optimistic for the future of the workforce.

“Will robots overcome the normal intelligence of a human? Still, that is the direction that we’re going. There is a lot of changes in the field. At least it is a field that is not boring for anybody. You can find yourself, and really what you want. Yes, you have a job. My feeling is that everybody could find the job that he or she likes,” says Dr. Kantardzic.

Not only does Dr. Kantardzic have a number of publications backing his research, but a robust philosophy that he applies to teaching. He believes, “I’m always telling my students that you think of computer science as a technical discipline. You couldn’t believe how different field makes a difference in computer sciences. Now maybe people understand more. You have Facebook, Twitter, which are analyzing data. I think the field of computer engineering the good thing is that people from different disciplines are making this field much richer.”

He continues adding of his belief in a multi-disciplinary model for research that, “Always I’m telling young people, especially female, they are afraid of this geek image. That is the typical. It will be much more communication for any other field. Tomorrow you will design for the medical field, the legal field… it is critical that you communicate with these fields.”