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Supercomputing equipment to advance the frontiers of computational biology

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will continue to advance the frontiers of computational science with the help of IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer. Awarded under IBM's Shared University Research (SUR) program, this Blue Gene will complement the $100 million partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and New York state to create one of the world's most powerful university-based supercomputing centers.

The equipment will provide a resource for scientists to gain experience with the Blue Gene computing environment, while also supporting a project to develop new simulation technologies for understanding biological systems. The work will help researchers develop algorithms and software that run efficiently on Blue Gene technology, which is a key part of the new Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI).

This $2.23 million gift of IBM equipment counts toward the $1.4 billion Renaissance at Rensselaer campaign.

"This award further advances the strong partnership between IBM and Rensselaer to develop a leading-edge, high-performance computational capability," said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. "It will allow our faculty and students to take the lead in research that will enable key nanotechnology innovations in the fields of energy, biotechnology, arts, and medicine."

As biology becomes a more quantitative field, researchers need new simulation technologies to understand how proteins, DNA, and other biological systems behave at the molecular level, according to the Rensselaer research team. The new SUR award is designed to help develop simulations for prototyping medical devices in "virtual patients," with potential applications in targeted drug delivery systems such as drug eluting stents, transdermal patches, and inhalers.

To be successful, these simulations must run efficiently and effectively on the latest generation of high-performance computing equipment. The project will help researcher s develop critical computational biology tools that operate on the Blue Gene system, with the goal of making these available to a broad community of users.

The project's principal investigators at Rensselaer are Angel Garcia, senior constellation chaired professor in biocomputation and bioinformatics; Mark Shephard, the Samuel A. and Elisabeth C. Johnson Jr. Professor of Engineering and director of the Scientific Computation Research Center; Shekhar Garde, the Elaine and Jack S. Parker Career Development Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; and Kenneth Jansen, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering.

The new Blue Gene system consists of a single rack with 1,024 dual processor compute nodes, 32 I/O nodes, a service node, a front-end node, and multiple terabytes of SAN-based disk storage.

Announced in May 2006, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) is a $100 million partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and New York state to create one of the world's most powerful university-based supercomputing centers, and a top supercomputing center of any kind in the world. The center is designed to help continue the impressive advances in shrinking device dimensions seen by electronics manufacturers, and to enable key nanotechnology innovations in the fields of energy, biotechnology, arts, and medicine. Learn more at the CCNI Web site:

Source:Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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