NSF grant to boost KU’s life sciences computing power

Wed, 09/18/2013

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Cody Howard
School of Engineering
785-864-2936

LAWRENCE — A three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will provide a boost to computational life sciences research at the University of Kansas and KU Medical Center. The award which comes with $200,000 from KU, bringing the total to $700,000 — provides funds to purchase computer hardware that’s expected to accelerate data analysis and computer modeling for researchers in fields such as genetics, chemistry, biophysics, ecology, evolutionary biology, materials research and pharmaceutical sciences.

Jun “Luke” Huan, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of the bioinformatics and computational life sciences laboratory at KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center (ITTC), is the principal investigator on the project. His team will oversee the installation of the new hardware and ensure the system functions smoothly.

“So much research in science and engineering is data-intensive. Enhanced data processing and storage capability enables researchers to run more elaborate cyberexperiments in a shorter amount of time, which means challenges are solved quicker,” Huan said.

The hardware purchase will cover three areas: storage, computer servers and graphics processing units. It will be housed at KU’s Advanced Computing Facility in Nichols Hall, which opened early in 2013 through a $4.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“We’re fortunate to already have a wonderful facility in place that can immediately handle the addition of this new hardware,” Huan said. “That means installation will be fast, and we should be up and running in just a few months.”

Huan is working with four KU professors as co-principal investigators: Justin Blumenstiel, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Ilya Vakser, professor of bioinformatics and molecular biosciences and director of the Center for Bioinformatics; Krzysztof Kuczera, professor of chemistry and molecular biosciences; and A. Townsend Peterson, distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“We’re proud of the interdisciplinary nature of the project. With computer science as the backbone, we’ll be providing the computing power for research in a wide-range of fields such as biology, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, pharmaceutical science and several others,” Huan said.

KU Medical Center investigators are frequent users of ACF. Huan said the grant further strengthens the connection between KU and KU Medical Center by improving the computing facility to process big genomics data. The project also meets two key goals set out in the university strategic plan.

“This effort speaks to the goals of Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge and Promoting Well-Being, Finding Cures. We’re thrilled to undertake this interdisciplinary research effort and expect to see some exciting outcomes,” Huan said.



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Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/. Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.


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