Pamplin student develops search tool for product safety data analysis
August 5, 2016
“They have all this data that may be able to help them find possible product safety issues." “What they had me doing was looking for an efficient and effective way to analyze all the data.”
Mummalaneni is working as a student trainee for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in its Office of Compliance, in metro Washington, D.C.
Mummalaneni’s focus has been on the reports the office receives weekly from retail merchants regarding customers’ claims of potentially faulty or dangerous products.
“They have all this data that may be able to help them find possible product safety issues,” he explained. “What they had me doing was looking for an efficient and effective way to analyze all the data.”
The office staff had been combing through the reports every week but were searching for a better way to uncover more long term trends or issues.
Mummalaneni suggested compiling the reports into a database.
“I figured out a decent way to file and sort the data in Microsoft Access,” Mummalaneni said.
But the solution was not a quick fix, because the employees who will be using this data are not knowledgeable about how to use databases or create database queries.
“Most people in the office do not have a database background, so I created a program to take the user’s input and to create and run the query for them,” Mummalaneni said.
He knew how to do this using Microsoft Access and coding skills he learned in the course BIT-3444: Advanced Business Computing and Applications. The program he created will allow CPSC staff to continue to search the database once his internship ends.
“With Vaibhav’s background in computer-based decision support systems and his impressive computer skills, he has found ways for our office to work more efficiently,” explained Saba Wagner, a CPSC investigative research analyst who is working closely with Mummalaneni this summer. “He has been a great asset to this office.”
Wagner pointed to the value of giving students the chance to work in office settings to apply knowledge learned in the classroom in order to pursue potential career interests.
On campus, Mummalaneni works as a research assistant. He has conducted quality studies on several products under the leadership of Alan Abrahams, an associate professor of business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business.
The research, which is funded by the college’s Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics, uses a technique known as text mining to identify trends, including possible defects, in product reviews written by customers. Mummalaneni has researched and analyzed the use of baby cribs, credit cards, and kitchen blenders.
“Vaibhav is one of the most diligent and experienced undergraduate research assistants in our quality analytics research group,” Abrahams said.
Mummalaneni has become deft in the use of Pamplin’s quality analytics tools, including a cloud-based collaborative tagging tool called PamTag.
“Though these tools are not currently in use at the CPSC, we expect that Vaibhav’s experience at CPSC will inform ongoing software development and hope that CPSC might consider adopting Pamplin’s unique software and techniques in their next generation of public safety surveillance systems,” Abrahams said.
Mummalaneni found the internship experience to be very satisfying because of its benevolent and helpful approach to identify safety hazards and to solve problems.
“I mean, I am not a doctor,” he said. “I can’t directly save people’s lives, but hopefully I can help in this way.”