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January 9, 2013 at 3:05 PM

New advanced computing institute to tackle big problems

The University of Washington and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are forming a new enterprise, the Northwest Institute for Advanced Computing, to tackle a wide range of the world’s most vexing issues – from the causes of disease to how climate change will impact the planet.

The institute is designed to find ways to mine the huge amounts of data generated every day by scientific instruments and household electronics, said Doug Ray, associate director of Richland-based PNNL, in a release.

Ray said researchers at the new institute will tackle ‘big data’ to help improve the quality of life, taking on the most pressing problems facing science and society.

For example, new computational techniques can help design a smart electric grid system, and better analysis of biological data can help determine the cause of diseases. Computer modeling can be used to explore climate change impacts. Cellphone data could even be analyzed and used to find ways to decrease idling traffic.

At the institute, UW and PNNL researchers will jointly explore advanced computer system designs, accelerate data-driven scientific discovery and improve computational modeling and simulation. It will also become a training ground for future researchers.

“The new center is fundamentally about methodology,” said the UW’s Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and engineering and director of the UW eScience Institute.

“’Big data’ is transforming the process of discovery in all fields,” he said. “UW and PNNL have significant and complementary strengths; together we’ll be able to do amazing things.”

The institute, which will be headquartered in the UW’s Seig Hall, will be led by UW electrical engineering chair and Applied Computational Engineering Lab director Vikram Jandhyala and PNNL fellow Moe Khaleel, who directs PNNL’s Computational Science and Mathematics research division.

Last year, the UW generated a buzz in the computer science world when it hired four computer-science superstars to join the faculty.

Comments | More in Education, General news | Topics: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Washington


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