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KU Advanced Computing Facility expands research capacity, increases energy efficiency

Tue, 02/19/2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the heightened threat of a major winter storm on Thursday, the Advanced Computing Facility dedication ceremony has been postponed to a later date.

LAWRENCE – Researchers at the University of Kansas now have access to a new facility capable of supporting 24 times more high-performance computing power, thanks to completion of a two-year renovation and improvement project funded by a $4.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The Advanced Computing Facility, located in Nichols Hall, began operation last fall and will be dedicated formally at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21. A brief ceremony will be followed by a ribbon-cutting and reception. The featured speaker will be Jeff Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. He also is the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

According to Perry Alexander, director of KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, the ACF replaces a much smaller system that was running at full capacity and couldn’t be expanded. “The ACF will serve an exceptionally diverse range of researchers from all KU campuses,” he said, “including chemists, biologists, pharmaceutical scientists and engineers. It also provides a more energy-efficient and sustainable solution to KU’s expanding high-performance computing needs.”

For example, the new facility recovers heat generated by the computing hardware to supplement the Nichols Hall boilers, significantly reducing the consumption of natural gas in the building. In addition, when outside temperatures fall below 45 degrees, the chilled water plant compressors are powered down, and a passive “dry cooler” supports equipment cooling. This reduces electricity consumption dramatically.

The ACF project provides a major expansion of floor space dedicated to higher-performance computing, adding 32 new high-density hardware racks. In addition, to ensure reliability, the project included a 1,500-kilowatt emergency backup generator, a 500-kilowatt modular uninterruptable power supply and a complete retrofit of the Nichols Hall electrical distribution panels.

“The project ties in closely to KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan,” said Alexander. “One of the four themes is `Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge,’ while one of the six goals is `Developing Infrastructure and Resources.’ The ACF addresses both priorities.”

Funding for the ACF came from the National Center for Research Resources at NIH as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project was led by Luke Huan, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the Bioinformatics and Computational Life Sciences Laboratory at ITTC. The project received additional support from the KU Office of Research and Graduate Studies and KU Information Technology.



Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here: http://bit.ly/1awodaa
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23. http://t.co/UiKA9MYNv0 http://t.co/PHwCOHqcfD
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


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