As we head into a new academic year, it’s a great time to gain perspective on the impacts of our day-to-day work – not all is glamorous. But in the scope of things, if you take a moment to think about our partnerships, a few of which are touched on in this note, we are actually part of something bigger than ourselves, something truly world-changing.
Research starts out as an idea, an idea about how to prove, solve, understand, address, and expand the knowledge of a given aspect of our world. The research idea must be supported with research methods to explore the idea and infrastructure to execute the tasks that bring an idea to fruition. Without infrastructure, that idea would remain a daydream and never have a chance at becoming reality.18
More and more, research relies on exceptional computing power as the core infrastructure components of execution. Researchers require high-performance computing power, high-speed network connections, and huge amounts of storage to conduct their work. You often hear how the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) meets those needs for campus. See the article on Stampede 2. But, you might be surprised to learn that ITS is also a partner in those computation efforts required to make research a reality. Here are just a couple of examples of high-impact research out of many that we support.
Part of the Center for Transportation Research, the Network Modeling Center’s mission is to further the state-of-the-art and state-of-the-practice in transportation network models. Researchers actively engage in fundamental research related to network models, with an emphasis on dynamic traffic assignment (DTA) models and the application of DTA models to determine the system-level impacts of changes to the transportation network infrastructure. To create the models, massive amounts of data are crunched in high-performance computing systems. ITS and the University Data Centers support the high-performance compute cluster, virtual environment, and storage systems to help the Center create new transportation models. These models have been adopted worldwide, affecting traffic patterns and helping to save lives from traffic fatalities.
The Imaging Research Center is an interdisciplinary, multi-methods facility specializing in non-invasive neuroimaging. The core of the center is a new Siemens Skyra 3T MRI scanner used by many researchers for studies of human perception, memory, decision-making, and behavior. Unique emphases at the IRC include a strong connection to supercomputing resources at the TACC, real-time fMRI, high-resolution / 3D visual presentation, and support for developmental studies. The facility also contains a number of resources for imaging in model systems, as well as imaging-informed fabrication and machining. ITS partners with TACC and the imaging center to provide the network infrastructure to connect this computing power to campus and researchers at a blazing 100Gbs speed.
The University of Texas at Austin leads research in many fields, with nearly a billion dollars annually supporting researchers and their work. Our outstanding faculty, students, and staff make the discoveries that truly do “change the world.” It is exciting and makes me proud to be a partner in that effort, providing services, support, and infrastructure from which that research changes from idea to reality.
Our day-to-day work has a real and deep significance at Texas. Here’s to an academic year of very productive research and to the value our ITS team members and services provide that makes this world-changing research more than a notional idea!