This section of TLR Innovations provides short updates on UIT Academic Technology projects, partnerships, and services.
Super-fast link established between the Research cluster and the “Viswall”
In May 2009, UIT Academic Technology supervised the installation of a new and dedicated 10Gig fiber network link between the Tufts High Performance Computing (HPC) research cluster in TAB and the Center for Scientific Visualization (aka “Viswall”) in Anderson Hall.
Sharing private nodes on the cluster benefits faculty and the community
When we purchased the new Tufts High Performance Computing (HPC) research cluster in June 2008, we designed it to allow individual research groups to contribute their own computing nodes if they had the funding to do so. The idea behind this was to allow researchers to have their own dedicated HPC resources, while simultaneously benefiting from use of this shared resource.
Here’s how it works: a faculty member purchases a certain number of nodes to be integrated into the cluster at a discounted price negotiated with IBM; UIT is responsible for installing, maintaining, and supporting these nodes; special queues with priority and preemption privileges are created for each faculty group; CPU time that is unused by the faculty owner is given back to the community thus increasing our shared computing capacity. The benefits are immediate: node contributors gain their own dedicated hardware for which they do not have to compete with other users, as is the case for the public side of the research cluster; when capacity is not being used on the dedicated nodes, the community gains additional computing power (12% at the moment). After a year, six private nodes have been contributed by faculty in four research groups, and these nodes are being used to help the groups perform their research more efficiently. The participating research groups are: Dean Linda Abriola, School of Engineering: 1 node Professor Roni Khardon, Computer Science: 2 nodes Professor Eric Miller, Electrical & Computer Engineering: 2 nodes Professor Lenore Cowen, Computer Science: 1 node Interest in contributing private nodes has been high. Also, the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) legislation has provided an unprecedented level of funding ($8.2 billion in extramural funding) to the NIH to help stimulate the US economy through the support and advancement of scientific research. There are many pending individual ARRA grants that have budgeted for such nodes, so we expect to see additional growth if those grants come through. Overall, the cluster includes 45 public nodes and 6 private nodes with 8 cores each for a total of 408 cores.
Mathematica for Tufts Students
Recently UIT Academic Technology upgraded its research cluster Mathematica license to allow currently enrolled students to install and use Mathematica on student-owned computers.
Teaching and Learning Technology
New Academic Continuity Resource Site
As part of the university’s pandemic planning, Tufts CIO David Kahle and Associate Provost Mary Lee asked the UIT Academic Technology group to create a simple information site for faculty describing technologies that can be used to support academic continuity, focusing especially on ways to record lectures ahead of time so that students can access them remotely if need be.
The “Tools to Support Academic Continuity” resource site is now ready and accessible by everyone in the Tufts community via Spark (login is UTLN and webmail password): http://go.tufts.edu/academiccontinuity.
This was a generous cross-university team effort, including contributions from UIT, ITS in Medford, Cummings, Fletcher, Friedman, and School of Medicine colleagues, all of whom assisted with information and resource links. Thanks to this shared effort, we now have a simple resource site that can be used across contexts by faculty who want to prepare for potential pandemic (or just to provide asynchronous access to course lectures and materials). With suggestions and new options, we can continue to build on the initial resource site over time. Please share this link with faculty and academic resource colleagues in your area as desired.
Learning Management System (LMS) Project Updates
UIT Academic Technology continues to facilitate the Tufts University LMS project in partnership with the LMS Advisory and Core Teams and associated working groups. The outcome of the project this year will be a recommendation for comprehensive next-generation Tufts University learning management system strategy, including a focus on effective service and support models to enable meaningful use of course tools to support teaching, learning, and collaboration.
Tufts Web Conferencing Project
The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) team of UIT Academic Technology is gearing up for their November 17th VUE 3.0 Release. This is the third major release of the Mellon-funded project, and focuses on an innovative approach to the analysis of research data.
Teaching, Learning, and Research
Faculty Research & Teaching Study
During academic year 2008-09, Laura Walters, Associate Librarian for Research, Teaching, and Information Resources at Tisch Library, led a research study in which colleagues from Tisch Library, UIT Academic Technology, Digital Collections & Archives, and Information Technology Services (ITS) interviewed 40 faculty from across Arts & Sciences and Engineering departments to learn about their research and teaching practices in order to inform future planning for enhanced faculty and student services.