Wayne State, UM Collaborate to Advance Computational Problem Solving – Today@Wayne

The ability to process data sets that are too large or too complex to be processed by traditional computers is necessary to solve vexing research problems in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering and other fields of study. Scientists at the largest Carnegie R1 universities, unlike many researchers at smaller institutions, have built computing and storage systems necessary to conduct this research.

However, a new $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and the Merit Network will help provide the computing power that researchers at all institutions need in the state — and throughout the Midwest region — need to pursue their science and introduce their students to advanced computer-based problem-solving.

The HORUS (Helping Our Researchers Upgrade their Science) grant addresses the lack of access to high-performance computing (HPC) and high-throughput computing (HTC) and the long learning curve for their use.

HORUS will build on and expand on the previously NSF-funded OSiRIS project, which provided massive storage – but no processing power – by adding processing hardware on top of storage. In mythology, Horus, the falcon-headed god, is the son of Osiris, the divine child of the sacred family triad.

Rob Thompson poses for a photo.
Rob Thompson, Wayne State’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Associate Vice President of Computer and Information Technology, is Co-Principal Investigator of HORUS.

“What’s exciting about this grant is that through our collaboration with the University of Michigan and the Merit Network, we will enable the state’s R2 and smaller institutions to engage in advanced HPC and HTC computing while continuing to support ours Increase the resources available to students and researchers,” said Rob Thompson, Wayne State’s chief information officer (CIO) and associate vice president of computer and information technology and co-principal investigator on the project.

The grant will provide hardware, including nodes with graphics processing units, capable of performing trillions of calculations per second, which is essential for tackling research problems that would otherwise not be possible.

Shawn McKee, a research scientist in the University of Michigan Physics Department, is the principal investigator on the project.

“Researchers who may be bottlenecked due to a lack of appropriate resources or significant challenges in navigating complex technology learning curves will be able to improve their scientific process,” said McKee. “HORUS will also serve as a gateway to greater resources across the land.”

HORUS also contains components for the training of tomorrow’s researchers through the use of HPC/HTC in basic courses at adult education centres, which is already paying off. While developing the proposal, it was revealed that Oakland Community College (OCC) is developing a data science certificate program. It is believed that Wayne State’s experience, with his long-standing Master of Science in Data Science, could be helpful to OCC.

“By providing OCC and other community college students with access and resources, as well as the experience needed to apply data science techniques to large and complex datasets, they will be better prepared when they come to Wayne State, the staff or a reach another university,” Thompson said.

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