JICS Participates in UT’s “Computational Science Kickoff”

Caitlin Rockett

A group of experts from varying domains—including Director of the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS) Robert Harrison—gathered at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) to speak with interested students, faculty, and staff about professional and educational opportunities in computational science and engineering, including the university’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science (IGMCS) program.

Harrison, also a professor of chemistry, discussed the partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and UTK that established JICS over 20 years ago—a partnership that continues to bring together internationally recognized computational research and faculty members in fields such as physics, material science, mathematics, and molecular biology. While IGMCS is only currently available as a minor, there is a push to develop the program into a major area of study.

“JICS is actively engaged in all aspects of education in computation, and we are very enthusiastic about the growth of the IGMCS program and its advancement into a full curriculum,” Harrison said to the crowd of professionals, graduate students, and undergrads in the University Center’s Shiloh Room. Harrison emphasized that JICS is also growing, adding that a search recently began to fill three new positions at the institute. In additon, interested students were encouraged to contact staff at JICS regarding available internships and research positions.

The main facility managed by JICS is NICS, the National Institute for Computational Sciences, which facilitates 65 percent of all computational work done under funding from the National Science Foundation. Housed at ORNL, NICS enables research through three computers: Nautilus, a shared-memory machine for visualization and data analysis; Keeneland, a GPU-based hybrid machine jointly managed by the Georgia Institute of Technology, NICS, and ORNL; and Kraken, the world’s first academic supercomputer capable of one quadrillion calculations per second. Jim Ferguson, director of Education, Outreach, and Training at NICS, provided attendees with a brief history of the institute and the growing opportunities within it.

“On July 1, NICS was awarded $18 million through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment project funded by NSF. This five-year award provided funding for 18 additional staff members.” Ferguson also informed participants of the JICS/IGMCS Seminar Series beginning this fall on most Thursdays at 2 p.m. in room 233 of the Claxton building.

Jack Dongarra, University Distinguished Professor of Computer Science, explained the importance of computational research.

“Computational science enables us to investigate phenomena where economics or other constraints preclude experimentation, to evaluate complex models and manage massive data volumes, and to transform business and engineering practices,” he said. Dongarra, also founding member of JICS, elaborated on the requirements of the IGMCS program.

A graduate students majoring in applied math, a computer related field, or a domain science can apply to receive a minor in computer science. 15 departments within the university are a part of the IGMCS program. Professors from these departments have created pools of courses dealing with each of the three main fields of study for students to choose from. A student studying in a department outside of the 15 IGMCS participating departments can still apply for the minor after consulting with Dongarra.

Master’s level students must complete nine hours total—two courses (three hours) from their home discipline and two courses (six hours) outside the student’s major area of study. Student’s pursuing a PhD degree must complete 15 hours total, with six hours coming from the home area of study and nine hours coming from two other disciplines. Three hours of the minor can be satisfied through a related internship or practicum. IGMCS students have worked with organizations like MathWorks, Google, and Nvidia to fulfill internship requirements.

Other speakers at the meeting included Lee Riedinger, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education; Lou Gross, director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis; and Joshua Fu, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. –Caitlin Elizabeth Rockett

More details about this event can be found at http://igmcs.utk.edu/kickoff/.
Information about IGMCS can be found at http://igmcs.utk.edu/, while the IGMCS seminar series are described at http://igmcs.utk.edu/seminars.