Computer science student explores correlation between chocolate and longevity

walkerNearly everyone loves chocolate. People worldwide consume approximately seven million metric tons of it each year, and sales of chocolate contribute over $80 billion to the global economy.

But can eating chocolate actually help people live longer and happier lives? Cerise Walker’s research aimed to answer that question.

Walker, a computer science undergraduate student in the Wayne State University College of Engineering, has been selected to participate in a poster competition at the HPCC Systems Engineering Summit Community Day on Oct. 3 in Atlanta.

Her project, “Is the Secret to Longevity Eating Chocolate,” used correlation and regression analysis to compare worldwide levels of chocolate consumption with the average life expectancy and happiness index of the corresponding countries. Walker’s findings indicated strong links between happiness and chocolate consumption and also between happiness and life expectancy, with a moderately positive correlation between chocolate consumption and life expectancy.

Walker was advised by Itauma Itauma, MSCS ’15, an adjunct faculty member in the computer science department. They brainstormed together to come up with an interesting topic for statistical analysis, and were inspired by Franz H. Messerli’s 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We read an article about the correlation between chocolate consumption and Nobel laureates, which led us to thinking about how chocolate consumption could affect other aspects of our lives,” said Walker. “We chose happiness and life expectancy due to the vast amount of studies that focus on how consuming chocolate affects cognition and heart health.”

Much of Walker’s work on this project, including correlation modules and visual representations of her results, was performed using resources from HPCC Systems, a software platform that enables developers and scientists to process and analyze big data.

“We chose to use the HPCC Systems platform to explore potential ways it could be useful to undergraduate students,” said Walker.

The purpose of the summit, hosted by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, is to gather engineers, data scientists and technology professionals to share knowledge and future plans for the HPCC Systems platform. Representatives of industry and academia present their HPCC Systems use cases, research projects and share their experience on how they leverage the platform.