NSF Awards Reinforce UCSD?s Reputation as Leader in IT Research

September 25, 2002 / By Doug Ramsey

NSFSan Diego, Sept. 25, 2002 -- With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) will embark on eight new projects in the field of information technology (IT) including development of a new architecture for computer networks based on optical communications, and new ways to use IT in the study of earth sciences. The NSF today announced the awards through its Information Technology Research (ITR) program, created three years ago with a mandate to support visionary work in information technology and its applications. “These awards confirm that some of the most exciting research in information technology today is being done here at UCSD,” said Richard Attiyeh, the university’s Vice Chancellor for Research. “This is a vote of confidence from the NSF in the university’s focus on multidisciplinary research at the intersection of computer science, engineering, biology, physics, and environmental sciences.”

The latest awards allocate more than $22 million over five years specifically to support research at UCSD. The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Calit²], the Jacobs School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Division of Physical Sciences and other UCSD organizations provide the intellectual foundation for this campus-wide success.

The largest ITR award this year will fund work on a more powerful distributed cyber “infostructure” to support data-intensive scientific research and collaboration. Dubbed the “OptIPuter” -- because it links optical networks, Internet Protocol (IP), and computer storage and processing -- the project involves design and deployment of new tools and techniques for tightly coupling visualization, computational, and storage resources over parallel optical networks using the IP communication mechanism. The OptIPuter is a collaboration of UCSD, the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as Northwestern University, San Diego State University, University of Southern California (USC) and University of California-Irvine (UCI), UCSD’s partner in Calit². The project will be led by Calit² director Larry Smarr. “We are harnessing the abundant IT expertise of research organizations in Chicago and southern California,” said Smarr, a professor in the Jacobs School’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department. “We hope to pave the way for scientists to exchange information and collaborate simultaneously across long distances on visualizations and other data that are today just too big to share in real time across the Internet.” The NSF will fund the OptIPuter project with $13.5 million over five years, with $6.6 million of that allocated to UCSD. (For details, go to http://www.calit2.net/newsroom/release.php?id=197.)

A second large award is for the GEOscience Network (GEON), a collaboration of information-technology and geoscience researchers to create a modern geoinformatics cyberinfrastructure for the earth sciences. GEON will provide interlinked information systems to enable the geosciences community at large to share not only data and information but also tools and programs that will let them collaborate more effectively than ever before. The San Diego Supercomputer Center is the lead player, with the IT research coordinated by Chaitan Baru, co-director of SDSC's Data and Knowledge Systems program. Others participants on the IT portion of GEON include the U.S. Geological Service, as well as scientists at Pennsylvania State University, UCSD Jacobs School’s CSE department, and San Diego State University. The total budget of this project is $11.25 million, with $5.6 million allocated to UCSD. (For more on the GEON project, go to http://www.sdsc.edu.)

The NSF announced a third large ITR award to UCSD, for a new Center for Theoretical Biological Physics. UCSD physics professors José Onuchic and Herbert Levine will receive funding to help establish the world’s leading center in the emerging field of theoretical biological physics. With biological physics emerging as an important new frontier for science in the 21st century, this new center will cross-fertilize ideas and methods from biology and biochemistry with the physics of complex systems. Onuchic and Levine will lead the effort, with the participation of SDSC, UCSD’s Division of Physical Sciences, The Scripps Research Institute, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Total NSF funding for the center announced today is $10.5 million over five years, with half of it coming in the form of an ITR award; $3.7 million of the ITR portion is allocated to UCSD. (For more on the center, go to http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/.)

Other UCSD research projects to be funded through new ITR grants include:

  • Science Environment for Ecological Knowledge. The SEEK project will develop tools and capabilities to help researchers address global research, management, and policy issues in environmental biology. SEEK's foundational EcoGrid for seamless data sharing, querying, and computation will be based on SDSC's Storage Resource Broker system for data sharing and interoperation. SEEK is led by researchers from the Partnership for Biodiversity Informatics (PBI), a consortium consisting of the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network Office at the University of New Mexico (UNM); SDSC; the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB); and the University of Kansas (KU). The $12.2 million project will include UCSD researchers Bertram Ludäscher of SDSC as a PI and co-PIs Arcot Rajasekar of SDSC and Joseph Goguen and Victor Vianu of the Jacobs School's Computer Science and Engineering department. Of the total, $2.5 million will be allocated to UCSD. (For more on SEEK, go to http://seek.ecoinformatics.org/)
  • Infrastructure Monitoring. Jacobs School structural engineer Ahmed Elgamal is leading an effort to create an integrated framework for health monitoring of highway bridges and other civil infrastructure, tapping into other expertise at UCSD on sensors and telecommunications. Of the total $2.65 million award, roughly $2.1 million will fund research at UCSD itself. Calit² is providing
    matching funds, and other collaborators will include UCI, USC and SDSC.
  • Network Framework. SDSC’s Amarnath Gupta and professor Fan Chung Graham, who has joint appointments in CSE and Mathematics, are co-principal investigators on a project to develop a framework to analyze, model and design robust, complex networks using biological and computational principles. The Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences is the lead institution on the $3-million project, with $1.25 million allotted for UCSD research.
  • Data Storage Limits. Jacobs School electrical and computer engineering professors Paul Siegel and Jack Keil Wolf of the Center for Magnetic Recording Research will study the information-theoretic limits of storage densities and data transfer rates in magnetic recording, and develop techniques to achieve those limits. The ITR grant is for $400,000 over three years.
  • Video Analysis. Institute for Neural Computation research associate Javier R. Movellan will work on “automatic analysis of spontaneous facial expressions.” Movellan also heads UCSD’s Machine Perception Laboratory. The project will receive $288,000 over two years.

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Media Contacts

GEON & SEEK: Paul Tooby ptooby@sdsc.edu (858) 822-3654
Center for Theoretical Biological Physics: Kim McDonald kimmcdonald@ucsd.edu (858) 534-7572
OptIPuter/Other: Doug Ramsey dramsey@ucsd.edu (858) 822-5825