As an educational leader in computational science, Wittenberg is a co-sponsor of the event, billed as an opportunity to connect Ohio's bioinformatics and bioscience research leaders. Wittenberg's Director of Computational Science Eric Stahlberg, who also works for Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), is one of the sponsorship chairs and a member of the conference's steering committee. Fadi Michael, class of 2008 from Springfield, Ohio, will also make a presentation during one of the conference's poster sessions. Michael is currently an intern working in the Biopathology Center at Columbus Children's Research Institute, preparing tools and information for tomorrow's pediatric disease research.
Stahlberg, who will also serve as a panel moderator during the event, said the conference is intended to build relationships between academic, industrial and government researchers interested in informatics and life sciences throughout the state. In addition to an interdisciplinary forum on bioinformatics and computational biology, six keynote speakers from prominent American and Canadian universities, are scheduled to make presentations during the event.
"Bridging communities of expertise is essential to continued progress in the evolving fields of computational biology and bioinformatics," Stahlberg said. "The combination of the different backgrounds offer the perspectives needed to innovate as the different disciplines first begin to blend."
Wittenberg has been a forerunner in undergraduate computational science for several years and was one of the first in the nation to offer a formal program in it. Recently retired Professor of Computer Science Jim Noyes, a member of the statewide users' group for OSC since its inception, drafted a white paper that included a proposal for computational science and the development of technological resources in 1997, long before computational science was on most schools' educational radar.
The computational science program became a reality when the expanded Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center opened in 2003, providing state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and laboratories, including a 64-bit WARP (Wittenberg Advanced Research Processors) cluster of computers. The compute nodes consist of 12 dual processor nodes and one quad processor node (28 compute processors in all). Each node utilizes 1.6 GHz processors. The dual processor nodes have two gigibytes (GB) of RAM and the quad processor has eight GB of RAM. There is approximately 1.7 terabytes (TB) of disk space. Its purpose is to solve challenging science problems that cannot be easily solved on regular workstations.
Computational science is a 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.
Stahlberg is working to set a direction for computational science at Wittenberg, with a focus on creating applications for the field across disciplines. He believes the integration of computational science across the liberal arts curriculum at Wittenberg will continue to set the university apart in the emerging field.
He hopes to build upon the congressional funding earmarked for collaborative research efforts between Wittenberg, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and OSC that was announced in 2005, as well as the Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement grant program funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Capital University professors that was announced earlier this year.
"The future of computational science is very exciting. Computing challenges and emerging capabilities are requiring new perspectives on approaches in computational science, right as several disciplines are converging," Stahlberg said. "The discoveries and transformations brought about by computational science in the next few years will be nothing short of remarkable."
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: John Strawn '07
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