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Blue Waters Campus Initiative: Center for Extreme-scale Computation
Advanced modeling and simulation, data analysis and synthesis, and visualization capabilities provide an opportunity for breakthroughs in a broad range of research, from the traditional areas of science and engineering to emerging areas in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Blue Waters, currently being installed in the National Petascale Computing Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provides an unprecedented opportunity for the campus to bring the world's most advanced computing capabilities to bear on critical research challenges. To this end, Illinois established the Center for Extreme-scale Computation with the goal of creating a community of faculty and staff members who will further develop and use this extraordinary capability to address the most challenging problems in all areas of scholarship.
Blue Waters, when it becomes operational at the end of 2012, will be the most powerful computer system on a university campus. In recognition of Illinois' investments in the Blue Waters Project, the National Science Foundation allocated Illinois time on Blue Waters equivalent to a 800+ teraflops computer system. This allocation exceeds the computing resources available to any other U.S. university by an order of magnitude and provides Illinois with an unprecedented opportunity to advance its programs in computation-, data- and visualization-intensive research and education.
To take advantage of the opportunity created by Blue Waters, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has created the Center for Extreme-scale Computation (CESC) in NCSA's Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies. The goals of the Center are to:
- Build a community of faculty, staff and students that positions Illinois for leadership in petascale and beyond computation, data and visualization research.
- Develop petascale research applications and use Blue Waters to help solve the most pressing problems in research areas of importance to Illinois and the nation.
- Develop computing systems software and tools that will enable researchers to make full use of Blue Waters and help ensure its success.
To help achieve these goals, the Provost and CESC will help the colleges recruit up to ten new faculty members. Faculty at all levels will be sought. We anticipate that some, but not all of these faculty members will be part of the Illinois Strategic Excellence Hiring Program. The Blue Waters Campus Initiative will begin in the Fall of 2012 and continue for up to three years.
Center for Extreme-scale Computation
The Center for Extreme-scale Computing (CESC) will bring together faculty, staff and students from across the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to build the multidisciplinary teams necessary to achieve the breakthroughs promised by petascale computing. Many fields of research can benefit from the capabilities of Blue Waters. The following are a few examples of potential areas of research:
- Computational simulation will play a critical role in understanding and exploiting the nanoscale world (e.g., molecules and materials), the everyday world around us (e.g., weather and climate prediction), and the cosmos (e.g., astronomy and astrophysics).
- The humanities, arts and social sciences are at the beginning of an exciting, new digital era. Data analysis and visualization are at the heart of these activities, whether it is analysis of a collection of literature, creation of new art forms, or mining massive quantities of social data for insights and relationships.
- The development of better software, algorithms, and tools will enable computational and data researchers to make effective use of extreme scale systems. There are many opportunities in this area that will make Illinois the leader in creating software for extreme-scale computers.
To ensure that CESC has maximum impact on Illinois' research and education programs, it will be organized around a few major research themes, which may be supported by two or three hires in each area. However, individual research activities in all promising areas of research and education will be included in CESC to ensure that the extraordinary capabilities provided by Blue Waters have maximum impact on Illinois.
Criteria for the major research themes include:
- Build on existing strengths at Illinois, enabling the university to become a leader in the selected research theme.
- Require the capabilities provided by extreme-scale computation, data analysis/synthesis or visualization to make major advances in the theme.
- Promote and link to a rich set of funding opportunities to further strengthen the research theme.
The research themes must provide benefit to Illinois' academic units and NCSA/CESC, enhancing the role of Illinois in the nation's leadership computing programs. A committee of faculty and NCSA staff, chaired by the Vice Chancellor for Research, will review proposed themes.
Blue Waters Campus Initiative
Once the colleges and departments have identified areas of opportunity, the CESC will partner with the units to recruit faculty in the targeted areas. It is not the intention of this initiative to increase the size of the faculty. Most faculty hires will be made using existing faculty lines within the units/colleges. Units that have identified a major recruiting opportunity may petition the Provost to provide assistance in start-up packages and/or supplemental salary resources for exceptional hires. In select cases, bridge funding may be provided in anticipation of future vacancies.
All faculty hired under the Blue Waters Campus Initiative will be appointed in the relevant academic unit(s) and will be designated Blue Waters Professors. These faculty members will have a 0% appointment in CESC. The academic unit will assign teaching and other academic unit duties for Blue Waters Professors. However, the units are requested to take into consideration the CESC activities of the faculty in making these assignments.
A limited amount of office space is available for Blue Waters Professors in the NCSA Building. It is expected that the academic unit(s) will provide most of the space needed by Blue Waters Professors until such time as additional space becomes available in the NCSA building.
Start-up packages for Blue Waters Professors will be negotiated between the faculty recruit, the Unit Head, and the CESC Director. The contribution to the start-up package provided by CESC will be an allocation of time on Blue Waters. The CESC director will prepare a petition requesting an allocation of computer time on Blue Waters for the faculty recruit and present the petition to the Blue Waters Allocation Committee.
Procedures for Blue Waters Faculty Recruitment
There are two mechanisms for hiring faculty under the Blue Waters Initiative.
Unit Petitions. An academic unit may petition its Dean for permission to open a search under the Blue Waters Campus Initiative. The CESC Director may appoint up to two members of the Search Committee. The final decision on all faculty hires made under the Blue Waters Campus Initiative will rest with the Unit Head and Dean with the concurrence of the CESC Director.
Special Initiative. Under special circumstances, an outstanding individual, typically of more senior status, may be identified who, if recruited to Illinois, would greatly strengthen Illinois and help CESC ensure that it meets its goals. Such a targeted recruitment may be undertaken with prior agreement of the College Dean, CESC Director, and Provost.
Appointments for Current Illinois Faculty
Several faculty members who are already at Illinois could take full advantage of the extraordinary resources provided by Blue Waters. A separate process will be established to identify these individuals for appointments as Blue Waters Professors.