Four UW Students Selected for CI Student Engagement Program

February 21, 2012
Four students working
UW students (foreground, from left) Yongtao Cao, Eli Kinney-Lang and (background, from left) Josh McConnell and Charles Ogden study computer modeling of CO2 as it rises to the top of the bedrock and reacts with saline. The four students were selected to participate in a national Cyber-infrastructure (CI) Student Engagement Program, which begins with an orientation at Clemson University this week. (UW Photo)

Four University of Wyoming students -- tied for the most from any university nationally -- have been selected to participate in a national Cyber-infrastructure Student Engagement Program, which begins with an orientation meeting today through Thursday, Feb. 23, at Clemson University.

Yongtao Cao, a doctoral student in statistics, from Shijiazhuang, China; Eli Kinney-Lang, a junior majoring in mathematics; Josh McConnell, a senior majoring in chemical engineering and mathematics; and Charles Ogden, a junior undergraduate majoring in mechanical engineering, were four of 87 students selected nationwide for the program.  Kinney-Lang, McConnell and Ogden are all from Laramie.

"Yes, other states did have four students," says Barbara Kucera, deputy director, Center for Computational Sciences at the University of Kentucky. Kentucky and Clemson have been awarded funds by the National Science Foundation to run the Cyber-infrastructure Student Engagement Program (CI). "This is a very generous and beneficial experience for these students who we want to encourage to select science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers."

The program is designed to provide students with an awareness of opportunities arising from the technology associated with various aspects of cyber-infrastructure. Cyber-infrastructure is the organized ecosystem of personnel, technology, software and communication infrastructure that drives current scientific research efforts.

As part of the program, the four UW students will begin a scheduled online training program through September. Topics will include high-performance computing and high throughput computing, which includes parallel programming, campus-wide grids, national grids, virtual organizations, data visualization (mining, management and file systems storage), networking and cloud services.

Skills learned in this program can provide the students potential opportunities to conduct research with UW faculty at the National Center for Atmospheric Research-University of Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC), which is set to open this fall in Cheyenne.

"Knowing how to work with supercomputers matters a lot to me," says McConnell, who indicated he has a summer internship with NASA, which uses supercomputers extensively. "Although I will be conducting a lot of surface chemistry there, I definitely want to do some computer modeling in the future."

Ogden agrees.

"I will be seeing more of this in the future no matter what I do," Ogden says. "High-performance computing is the future."

By expanding the awareness of, and ability to access and deploy CI resources and services, UW students will be provided the skills to become CI champions/mentors within UW's CI community. CI resources and services can be provided on and between campuses; by federal agencies; as well as through other state, regional, national and international CI providers.

Kinney-Lang looks at the CI program as an opportunity to expand the use of techniques he learned in his math-modeling course to conduct more complex modeling with his research, which centers on how the brain correctly wires itself.

"This training and the workshops will help me improve my programming skills," says Cao, who conducts theoretical research of different chemical designs, with a goal of determining the optimum process by looking at various factors and levels. "We'll be able to visualize our results."

Program participants also will be invited to attend the Super Computing 2012 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 10-16. Full travel costs to the conference will be covered by the National Science Foundation's EPSCoR program, which sponsors the CI Student Engagement Program. EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) is a federal grant program that enables Wyoming to be nationally competitive in science and technology

At the conference, students will participate as certified "technical student volunteers" and assist booths on the exhibit floor. Through that access, students will be able to learn more about supercomputing and make potential, future employment contacts, says Bryan Shader, a UW professor of mathematics and special assistant to the vice president for research.

"They (NSF) want you to experience what's out there in high-performance computing," Shader told the four students.  "They want to see this program open doors for your careers and research, and help you find jobs down the road."

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