Wittenberg Ohio Supercomputer $1 million
With those words, the WOW (Wittenberg, OSC and Wright-Patterson) Project, an ambitious effort to expand and enhance research partnerships between Wittenberg, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) in Springfield may be realized.
“Wittenberg is extremely grateful to Congressman David L. Hobson for his vision and leadership in securing federal funds that will not only extend computational science research opportunities for our students and faculty, but will also greatly advance technological initiatives in the Springfield community,” said Wittenberg President Mark H. Erickson. Hobson (R-Springfield) is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which developed the bill.
The congressional funding is earmarked for collaborative research efforts that include Wittenberg students and faculty members, Wright-Patterson, with whom the university signed an educational partnership agreement almost two years ago, and OSC-Springfield, which is currently planning a local expansion that includes a new facility in the NextEdge Technology Park.
“This will dramatically increase opportunities for Wittenberg faculty and students,” Wittenberg University Associate Provost Gary Gaffield said. “This also underscores Wittenberg’s long-standing commitment to the greater Springfield community. It’s truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
Wittenberg has been a forerunner in the area of undergraduate computational science for several years and was one of the first in the nation to offer a formal program in it. Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Computational Science Minor Jim Noyes, who has been a member of the statewide users’ group for OSC since its inception and worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for many years, has long been an advocate of this project. This started when he read a National Academy of Sciences publication entitled Computing the Future, in 1992. He drafted a white paper that included a proposal for computational science and the development of technological resources more than eight years ago, long before computational science was on most schools’ educational radar.
Computational science is the relatively new research discipline that combines the methodologies of computer science with the techniques of applied mathematics to model and solve problems in the natural and social sciences. Traditionally, research was performed in a laboratory mixing chemicals or by developing theories, but computational science allows researchers to work through modeling and simulation, as they do when designing aircraft or mapping the human genetic code.
Coincidentally, President George W. Bush received a report from the Presidential Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) titled Computational Science, Ensuring America’s Competitiveness in June of this year. That report urged the country’s universities and federal agencies to become more proactive in the area of computational science.
“Though the information technology-powered revolution is accelerating, this country has not yet awakened to the central role played by computational science and high-end computing in advanced scientific, social science, biomedical, and engineering research; defense and national security; and industrial innovation,” the report stated.
The goal of the WOW Project addresses just such concerns, merging research, teaching and learning to solve complex problems. It will initially center on the computer science, biology and chemistry disciplines, but Noyes hopes to add students and faculty members conducting research in other areas in the future.
“You should start small and do what you can do and do it well,” Noyes said. “We’re also looking to eventually expand this beyond Wright-Patt to work with other businesses and organizations in this region.”
The $1 million, which was included in the recently passed federal Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, will help Wittenberg connect to the Third Frontier Network, a new high-speed fiber optic network linking universities with research facilities. Third Frontier is available through OSC-Springfield, which focuses on data-intensive supercomputing, large-scale data mining, regional and global climate modeling, materials science, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and high-energy physics.
On a statewide level, OSC works with the U.S. Department of Energy on climate modeling and nanotechnology and biotechnology research. Locally, Gaffield and Noyes hope the partnerships created by the WOW Project may help attract highly trained people to the Springfield area workforce.
“The work we’re doing would dovetail nicely with the other technology initiatives now under way in Clark County, such as at OSC and other businesses in the NextEdge Technology Park,” Gaffield said. “Wittenberg is committed to creating partnerships with others in the community to support local economic development, further growth of technology and create and retain quality work opportunities.”
- Ryan Maurer
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