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Innovators | Computing

Big data in a small box

Michael Schmidt, Nutonian

Michael Schmidt, founder and CEO of Nutonian Inc.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Data scientist Michael Schmidt found a way for computers to take over some of the most grueling and complex work behind scientific discoveries.

Schmidt created a computer program called Eureqa that acts as an automated scientist, probing through endless files of data to look for tiny correlations and insight. Eureqa repeats the cycle over and over until it pinpoints mathematical equations that work.

“With all the Big Data being generated, what we really need today is a data search engine that acts as a guiding rod to gain insight from all this information,” said Schmidt, 31, founder of the start-up Nutonian, which launched the first commercial versions of Eureqa last year.

The program was created at Cornell but Schmidt started his company in Cambridge. “We moved to be at the center of science, research, and big data,” he said.


Physicists have unleashed Eureqa’s brainpower to pinpoint the precision of particle accelerators, while other users have queried Eureqa for stock market predictions. The intelligent data-mining system is being used by 30,000 researchers worldwide to probe frontier problems in science.

“Nutonian has delivered a data scientist in a box,” said serial entrepreneur Chris Lynch, now a partner in Atlas Venture.

Schmidt’s most ambitious venture may be the Data Genome Project, which aims to decode the underlying commonalities in the world’s data. “In the same way that a DNA sequence describes the genome of an individual human, Eureqa will map the ‘genome’ of unique datasets,” said Schmidt.