Rising Stars 2020:

Hajar Homayouni

PhD Candidate

Colorado State University

Areas of Interest

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Database Management Systems
  • Information, Data, Network, and Communication Sciences


Anomaly Detection and Explanation in Big Data


Data quality tests are used to validate the data stored in databases and data warehouses, and to detect violations of syntactic and semantic constraints. Domain experts grapple with the issues related to the capturing of all the important constraints and checking that they are satisfied. The constraints are often identified in an ad hoc manner based on the knowledge of the application domain and the needs of the stakeholders. Constraints can exist over single or multiple attributes as well as records involving time series and sequences. The constraints involving multiple attributes can involve both linear and non-linear relationships among the attributes.

We propose ADQuaTe as a data quality test framework that automatically (1) discovers different types of constraints from the data, (2) marks records that violate the constraints as suspicious, and (3) explains the violations. Domain knowledge is required to determine whether or not the suspicious records are actually faulty. The framework can incorporate feedback from domain experts to improve the accuracy of constraint discovery and anomaly detection. We instantiate ADQuaTe in two ways to detect anomalies in non-sequence and sequence data.

The first instantiation (ADQuaTe2) uses an unsupervised approach called autoencoder for constraint discovery in non-sequence data. ADQuaTe2 is based on analyzing records in isolation to discover constraints among the attributes. We evaluate the effectiveness of ADQuaTe2 using real-world non-sequence datasets from the human health and plant diagnosis domains. We demonstrate that ADQuaTe2 can discover new constraints that were previously unspecified in existing data quality tests, and can report both previously detected and new faults in the data. We also use non-sequence datasets from the UCI repository to evaluate the improvement in the accuracy of ADQuaTe2 after incorporating ground truth knowledge and retraining the autoencoder model.

The second instantiation (IDEAL) uses an unsupervised LSTM-autoencoder for constraint discovery in sequence data. IDEAL analyzes the correlations and dependencies among data records to discover constraints. We evaluate the effectiveness of IDEAL using datasets from Yahoo servers, NASA Shuttle, and Colorado State University Energy Institute. We demonstrate that IDEAL can detect previously known anomalies from these datasets. Using mutation analysis, we show that IDEAL can detect different types of injected faults. We also demonstrate that the accuracy of the approach improves after incorporating ground truth knowledge about the injected faults and retraining the LSTM-Autoencoder model.

The novelty of this research lies in the development of a domain-independent framework that effectively and efficiently discovers different types of constraints from the data, detects and explains anomalous data, and minimizes false alarms through an interactive learning process.


Hajar Homayouni is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Colorado State University. She received her Master’s degree in Computer Science from CSU in 2018.  Her research interests are data science, applied machine learning, interpretability of machine learning, and big data quality assurance.  In addition to her academic experience as researcher, instructor, and teaching assistant at Alzahra University, Tehran and CSU, she has several years of industry experience, primarily in software R&D.

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