September 15, 2022

Wayne State, U-M team up to advance computational problem-solving

Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with High Internet Visualisation Projection.

The ability to crunch data sets that are too large or complex to be dealt with using 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 have built computing and storage systems necessary to conduct this research, unlike many researchers at smaller institutions.

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

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

HORUS will build on and augment the previously NSF-funded OSiRIS project, which provided massive storage — but not computational power — by adding computational hardware atop the storage. In mythology, Horus, the falcon-headed god, is the son of Osiris, the divine child of the holy family triad.

Rob Thompson poses for a photo.
Wayne State's chief information officer (CIO) and associate vice president for computing and information technology Rob Thompson is the co-principal investigator of HORUS.

“What’s exciting about this grant is that by working in tandem with the University of Michigan and Merit Network, we will enable the state’s R2 and smaller institutions to engage in advanced HPC and HTC computing, while at the same time boosting resources available to our students and researchers,” said Rob Thompson, Wayne State’s chief information officer (CIO) and associate vice president for computing and information technology, and co-principal investigator of the project. 

The grant will provide hardware, including nodes with graphic processing units capable of trillions of calculations per second, essential for tackling research problems otherwise not possible.

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

“Researchers who may have bottlenecks because of a lack of suitable resources or significant challenges in surmounting complex technology learning curves will be able to upgrade their scientific process,” said McKee. “HORUS will also serve as an on-ramp to larger scale resources across the nation.”

HORUS also includes components for the training of tomorrow’s researchers through HPC/HTC usage in undergraduate courses at community colleges, which is already paying dividends. In the development of the proposal, it was learned that Oakland Community College (OCC) is developing a data science certificate program. It’s believed that Wayne State’s experience with its long-standing master of science in data science may be helpful to OCC.

“Providing access and resources to OCC and other community college students, and the experience needed to apply data science techniques to large and complex data sets, will make them better prepared when they reach Wayne State, the work force or another university,” said Thompson.

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