Private Donation Launches Institute for Advanced Computational Science

Robert Harrison

A transformational $10 million anonymous donation plus matching funds of equal value from the Simons Foundation has enabled Stony Brook University to establish a world-class Institute for Advanced Computational Science. The core mission of the Institute is to advance the science of computing and its applications to solving complex problems in the physical sciences, the life sciences, medicine, sociology, industry and finance. In this endeavor, the Institute will cooperate closely with the new Computational Science Center at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), which specializes in large-scale data analysis. The new Institute for Advanced Computational Science will firmly establish the Stony Brook University-Brookhaven National Laboratory partnership as a center of excellence in high-performance computing.

The University has been fortunate to attract as Founding Director of the Institute, Professor Robert Harrison, a distinguished expert in high-performance computing. Through a joint appointment with BNL, Harrison has also been named Director of the Computational Science Center at BNL. He comes to Stony Brook from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he was Director of the Joint Institute of Computational Science, Professor of Chemistry and Corporate Fellow. He has a prolific career in high-performance computing with more than 100 publications on the subject, as well as extensive service on national advisory committees.

“This magnanimous gift marks the successful culmination of our quest to become a national player in the race to harvest the technology of high-performance computing for scientific research,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “We are especially pleased that this exciting endeavor further partners Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Laboratory. BNL is a world leader in the storage and analysis of scientific data generated by its own facilities and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Together with BNL, Stony Brook has long been a partner in the New York State High Performance Computing Consortium, and New York State has generously supported our efforts to gain a leadership position in this rapidly emerging field. This large and generous gift provides us with the means to attract the best and the brightest minds to create a focus on the science of high-performance computing on campus. We are greatly indebted to the anonymous donor and to the Simons Foundation for matching this magnificent gift.”

“I would like to express my gratitude to our anonymous donor and to the Simons Foundation for their generous gifts, which have made the development of the Institute for Advanced Computational Science at Stony Brook a reality,” said Dennis N. Assanis, Stony Brook University’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “I am also delighted that we were able to attract Dr. Harrison, a national leader in high-performance computing, as the director of the new Institute. With ever-increasing availability of tera- and peta-flop computing power and its rapidly growing applications, to cutting-edge scientific and applied research, advanced computational science has emerged as a distinct intellectual and technological discipline lying at the intersection of applied mathematics, statistics, computer science, and core science and engineering disciplines. Reporting to the Provost, this interdisciplinary Institute will cut across many of our schools, colleges and departments at Stony Brook. It will serve as the central academic unit on campus providing intellectual, academic and technical leadership, as well as education and training, in the multi-disciplinary pursuit of discovery and innovation enabled by advanced computational methods and software, high-performance computing, and massive digital data mining. Accordingly, the Institute, which will create further synergies between the University and BNL, will be an intellectual center, with both a research mission for algorithm development and applications, as well as an academic mission in educating and supporting faculty and graduate students in the efficient use of top-end computers.”

Reinhold Mann, BNL’s Associate Laboratory Director for Environment and Life Sciences, stated that “this is another example of the close and impactful collaboration between the University and the Laboratory. Both institutions have seen the need for some time to build up the expertise in high-performance computing and data-intensive computing. By joining our efforts, we are able to move farther and faster than each of us could separately.”

According to Harrison, “Computation now pervades nearly all aspects not just of scientific discovery but increasingly our entire lives. Numerically and data-intensive computation, once dominated by the physical sciences and engineering, are now essential to fields as diverse as finance or medical imaging, and are transforming science and society, for instance, by understanding our proteome or predicting global trends.  These large simulations and computations require expertise that span multiple disciplines, and are increasingly so complex as to challenge human capabilities and budgets. The interdisciplinary IACS will make fundamental advances in how we compute to harness the full power of computers of all sizes, and to greatly broaden the impact of computation by making it more accessible to new researchers, disciplines and industries.”

These ultrafast computers involve new chip designs and chip arrangements that are evolving on a breathtaking time scale. The mathematical architectures, or algorithms, that can make efficient use of this new hardware, have far outgrown the concepts that power even advanced desktop computers, which are the working tool of most academic scientists. In the not so distant future, as the desktop computer incorporates the modern chip designs, it will use the language of the top-end architectures. Thus, computer science has, over the past decade, outgrown its character-of-old as the handmaiden of the general sciences and has become the science of computing.

The increasing availability and use of high-performance computers will change the way science will get its answers, industry will develop its products and society will analyze its needs. Many states, including the State of New York, are similarly investing in high-performance computing in order to provide its universities and its industrial base with the latest technological advantages in this rapidly evolving global competition.

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