Marshall research community to benefit from $2.6 million federal stimulus award to state

 Thursday, September 3, 2009


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University researchers and students will benefit from a $2.6 million National Science Foundation grant to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.

The cyberinfrastructure award, which was announced earlier this week by U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, will assist with scientific discovery by building capacity and promoting the use of high-performance computing cluster resources at Marshall University, West Virginia University and West Virginia State University.

More than $1 million of the grant funds will be used at Marshall over the next three years to help upgrade computing networks and enhance immersive visualization capabilities.

Dr. Tony Szwilski, professor of engineering and director of the university’s Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences, will coordinate the project on Marshall’s campus. Other members of the Marshall community who are involved include Dr. Jan Fox, senior vice president for information technology and chief information officer; Joseph Fuller, associate professor of  computer science; Dr. Venkat Gudivada, professor of  computer science; and Dr. Jack Smith, visualization manager.

According to Dr. John Maher, vice president for research and executive director of the Marshall University Research Corporation, the grant will be used to establish advanced high-performance computing and visualization resources at Marshall and to assist with connection to other high-performance computing systems and resources around the world, allowing faculty researchers – and their students – to collaborate in real time without geographic limitations.

“Engineering and scientific research today require computing infrastructure that will allow faculty to work with very large data sets and complex computational systems. This project will give our researchers tools to make them more competitive for outside funding, and will allow them to work with colleagues across the country and around the world,” said Maher. “We are pleased to be part of this collaborative.”

Fox added that the computerized visualization capabilities provided through the grant will help faculty communicate and explore both abstract and concrete ideas in health care and scientific and engineering research.

“By providing computing power that was, until recently, available only to the most prestigious research institutions, this project will assist Marshall’s growing research community in its quest to address problems that require the minds and resources of a global, collaborative community,” she said. “From the development of approaches to real-time, image-guided surgery to the provision of a platform for management of communities, emergencies and other complex processes, the capabilities provided by this funding will have a long-term, positive impact on our community, state and nation.”

In addition to the research equipment that will be provided through the grant, the project will help develop a work force that can create and sustain cyber-based systems, tools and services. A network of faculty and information technology professional staff will be developed at Marshall to help researchers expand the use of high-performance computing and advanced visualization in their work, as well as to provide expertise on the operational and technical aspects of using supercomputing resources.

“Cyberinfrastructure includes computational systems, data and information management, visualization environments and people – all linked together by collaborative software and advanced networks,” said Szwilski. “These significant resources will be a catalyst at Marshall for technology innovation and economic development.”

He added that complementary outreach activities will be undertaken at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to help teach students computational science and visualization skills, also with the goal of developing a high-tech work force.

The award was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. For more information, contact Szwilski at szwilski@marshall.edu.

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Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964


Related:  Grants give WV researchers access to supercomputers [WV Public Broadcasting, September 1, 2009] – audio available