April 18, 2012
Keith Hacke

University Wins Research Cluster Grant

A joint effort between several divisions made Saint Louis University's grant application to Silicon Mechanics stand out as the winner of a new High Performance Computing (HPC) research cluster. Silicon Mechanics received 190 applications from universities across the country, but SLU is the sole recipient of the advanced hardware. The new hardware means advanced research capabilities for the University

The next-generation hardware will be used by six research areas - Digital Humanities, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Business, and Computer Science - to expand on the University's research mission and attract additional researchers to SLU.
Keith Hacke, interim CIO and vice president of Information Technology Services (ITS) at SLU, believes their application benefited from a collaborative effort between SLU's leading scientific researchers, the Division of Research Administration, the Department of Corporate and Foundation Relations and ITS.

"We knew we would be competing with top research universities across the country for this grant and would need to make SLU stand out among nearly 200 applications," said Hacke. "To best explain how we would use the hardware, we needed to bring together several areas of research. This type of hardware is not used by just one division. It is used to expand research in multiple areas of Top 50 research institutions, and that's what SLU plans to become."

Some of the ways the various departments plan to use the hardware follow:

  • The Center for Digital Theology will be processing large sets of digital images of pre-modern, hand-written, and unpublished manuscripts to support existing research in the field of paleography.
  • Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering will use the research cluster to study new parachute concepts to enhance the ability to accurately deliver cargo by airdrop.
  • The Biology Department will be expanding their research in the areas of climate change, modeling high-elevation plant community ecology in the Andes Mountains.
  • Chemistry and Engineering Departments will be studying carbon nanotubes and developing computational models to predict solubility in organic solvents.
  • The John Cook School of Business will use the cluster hardware to develop algorithms to solve large-scale stochastic dynamic programs with the goal of improving logistical decision making.
  • The Computer Science program will use the cluster to provide hands on experience to students in its HPC courses developed as part of its recent certification as a "CUDA Training Center."

In short, the new research cluster, expected to be delivered to the University this week, will expand SLU's existing HPC infrastructure, lead to shorter simulation times and ultimately more research conducted.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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