CNS boosts research and community via High Performance Computing

Featured in the CNS Newsletter: Issue 10 - October 2014

The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) is a unique collaboration among state government, industry, and public and private universities. The center enables computationally intensive research for UMass Amherst, MIT, and Harvard, Northeastern, and Boston Universities. Located on a former industrial site in Holyoke, the MGHPCC is a vital community partner.

Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC)

CNS played a leadership role in this invaluable venture, and its efforts have paid off. The building is awesome--it's green: the first university research data center to receive a LEED Platinum certification (the highest green building ranking), and it uses about 25 percent less energy than other data centers.

But the most exciting thing for me is the kind of research that high performance computing makes possible. Here's a sampling of current research:

  • Prashant Shenoy, Computer Science, is conducting a pilot project with the Holyoke Gas & Electric Company that will show the utility and its customers how smart electric meters can save money and power.
  • Lila Gierasch, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, is analyzing how and why protein molecules arrange the way they do in human cells, helping us to understand diseases such as Alzheimer's and Huntington's.
  • Scott Auerbach, Chemistry, is studying models of proton exchange membranes in fuel cells, which are more efficient at generating energy than internal combustion engines or batteries.
  • Robert M. DeConto, Geosciences, is using complex computer models of the atmosphere, oceans, and ice sheets to understand past and future climate variability.
  • Yanlei Diao, Computer Science, and Li-Jun Ma, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, are developing a system for processing massive amounts of genome data.

In addition to supercharging our research activities, another mission of the MGHPCC is partnering with Holyoke and other local communities. Working closely with the Holyoke Innovation District Task Force, the MGHPCC is developing new educational and workforce development initiatives with K-12 public schools and community colleges.

  • A new agreement provides for yearly scholarships of up to $10,000 for one or more students from Holyoke to attend its founding colleges.
  • Recently, the MGHPCC hosted a group of middle school girls from across western Massachusetts to learn how to build and program LEGO robots as part of UMass Amherst's "Girls Connect" program.

Jim Kurose

One of the driving forces behind UMass Amherst's participation in the MGHPCC has been Jim Kurose, distinguished professor of computer science and former CNS executive associate dean. I'm so pleased to share that Jim will start a three year appointment as an Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation, leading the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) in January 2015.

A few weeks ago, the MGHPCC got more good news from Julie Buehler, UMass Amherst vice chancellor for information services and strategy and chief information officer, who announced that a new $1.5 million gift to UMass Amherst of networking equipment from Juniper Networks, an industry leader in network innovation, will be used in part to provide higher speed data transfer to the center.