NSF computing network grant will bolster research at UT Arlington

September 17, 2014

The University of Texas at Arlington has received a $500,000 National Science Foundation grant to provide networking capacity that is 10 times faster to campus researchers using massive amounts of data.

The funding from the NSF Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure will support UT Arlington's role in high-energy physics discoveries being made at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. It also will boost UT Arlington's capacity in a wide variety of science and engineering investigations, such as linking chronic disease with features of the human genome, building better civil infrastructure through data collection and tracing the path of past climate change events.

The project will provide dedicated pathways for academic research.

"All across the UT Arlington campus, faculty and student researchers are using large amounts of data to build fundamental knowledge and address the world's challenges, " said Carolyn Cason, vice president for research at UT Arlington. "This investment from the National Science Foundation will increase our capacity for collaboration within and outside the university, an advance that is sure to blossom into further discoveries."

The NSF grant begins on Oct. 1 and campus technology administrators expect work to start soon afterward on purchasing and installing routers and other equipment to increase the network capabilities. The changes will create what is referred to as a Science DMZ - a separate part of the network optimized for high-performance science applications.

"This grant represents a real spirit of collaboration across the University," said James Bradley, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. "The work that scientists like (physics professor) Kaushik De are doing is world-changing and shouldn't be limited by our networking capacity. So, when he came to the Office of Information Technology and said we could work together to achieve something that would fill a great need for our institution, we were eager to begin."

UT Arlington is home to more than 25 researchers participating in the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the world famous particle collider where scientists discovered the Higgs boson, or "God particle," in 2012. UT Arlington also hosts the ATLAS SouthWest Tier 2 Center, one of 100 data centers around the world where massive amounts of data from the LHC particle collisions is fed and utilized.

De, principal investigator on the new grant and a leader of the High Energy Physics Group at UT Arlington, said network performance is crucial to the success of experiments at the LHC and to UT Arlington's participation. The connectivity update provided by the grant will increase networking capacity from 10 Gigabytes per second to 100 Gigabytes per second and it couldn't come at a better time, he said. In 2015, the LHC will ramp up the energy of collisions and, thereby, greatly increase the load of data it sends to the SouthWest Tier 2 Center.

The LHC is getting ready to search for the yet to be seen Dark Matter particles with much higher energies, De said.

"The Tier 2 Center fits in perfectly with this grant opportunity but the networking improvements will really be multidisciplinary and benefit the whole campus," said De. "There's no question we needed to improve very quickly and this will support all of the great science that will happen at UT Arlington."

Bradley is a co-principal investigator on the new grant. Other co-principal investigators are Jeff Demuth, an associate professor of biology who leads research into evolutionary genetics and genomics; Anand Puppala, a professor of civil engineering who directs a center on Sustainable and Resilient Civil Infrastructure at UT Arlington; and Jianzhong Su, chairman of the UT Arlington mathematics department.

Demuth said increased bandwidth provided by the new project would benefit several biology faculty members at UT Arlington with its better capacity to move and analyze very large genomics datasets.

For engineering professors, the new network also will aid in Big Data research and work with radar and lidar, a remote sensing method used for mapping, according to Puppala.

"This major upgrade will enhance our engineering research teams' ability to develop forecasting tools and models that will provide results in relatively short time periods," he said.

Su said his own research would benefit from the computing project. He collaborates with UT Arlington bioengineering professors and UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers to improve brain-imaging techniques.

"The ultra-high speed internet and the Science DMZ will enable us to provide the technical capability needed in real time and from any remote site," he said. "This will also help other mathematics researchers who work on numerical methods for informatics, or data storage and retrieval, to fully take advantage of their fast algorithms to search data distributed around the world."
Several other UT Arlington faculty members supported the application for the networking grant. Those include Hanli Liu, professor of bioengineering; Ren-Cang Li, professor of mathematics; Arne Winguth, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; Peter Kroll, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Heng Huang, associate professor of computer science and engineering; Todd Castoe, assistant professor of biology; Heekyeong Park, assistant professor of psychology; and Shouyi Wang, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit http://www.uta.edu to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

University of Texas at Arlington

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