UTSA Research and Instructional Technology Suite will advance health research

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research center

Visualization Lab

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(Oct. 23, 2012) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio recently celebrated the grand opening of its Research and Instructional Technology Suite, a technology-laden facility that includes the Research Data Center, Advanced Visualization Laboratory, Department of Online Learning and Faculty Instructional Technology Lab.

The Research Data Center anchors the Research and Instructional Technology Suite. It includes research facilities managed by the Computational Biology Initiative (CBI), the Institute of Cyber Security (ICS), the Center for Education and Research in in Information and Infrastructure Security (CERI2S) and the Center for Simulation, Visualization and Real-time Prediction (SiViRT). The Advanced Visualization Laboratory is SiViRT's core facility.

Additionally, the Research Data Center houses computing equipment managed by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.

The CBI builds high-performance computing infrastructure for modeling and simulation of biological systems, live cell imaging and proteomics research. This infrastructure enables the integration, processing, analyses and modeling of the enormous amount of data generated in high throughput genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and interactomic studies.

The CBI is equipped with a 500-computing-core cluster system, a cutting-edge distributed file system and high-end workstations. It is a key component for advancing basic and translational health research at UTSA and is a unique facility that provides central computational support through advanced computational facilities and expertise for current and future UTSA faculty members and their students.

All the SiViRT Computation Center's supercomputers, including Shamu, Nemo and other LINUX clusters, are hosted in the Research Data Center. The SiViRT Computation Center is an interdisciplinary research center that consists of faculty members from the College of Engineering and the College of Science and has a mission to advance mathematical modeling, computer simulation and scientific visualization. SiViRT's application areas include computational fluid dynamics, computational bioengineering, simulation of structural failure, and model-based optimization and real-time control.

The Research Data Center also includes UTSA's FlexCloud and FlexFarm, where ICS scholars are researching cloud security and malware defenses. Using SmartDataCenter from Joyent and OpenStack from Rackspace, scholars researching in UTSA's FlexCloud program are studying ways to secure cloud computing. Research underway in the FlexFarm is dedicated to improving malware detection by providing faster response times and more efficient removal techniques for infections.

CERI2S conducts advanced information assurance research for the federal government, military and the defense contractors using the UTSA CyberRange, a large scale, self-contained, rapidly reconfigurable platform. The test bed leverages specialized emulation software to create a platform that is capable of providing low-cost, simultaneous configuration of multiple isolated experiments.

"The Research Data Center is a wonderful home for our institute's facilities," said Carlos Cardenas, ICS associate director. "It is allowing us to collaborate much more than ever before, since we're no longer split up into smaller lab spaces."

Established with funding from the National Science Foundation, the UTSA Advanced Visualization Laboratory, managed by SiViRT, offers researchers a way to analyze complex sets of data through visualization. The facility is home to a 14.5-foot-wide by six-foot-tall visualization wall powered by a hybrid CPU/GPU supercomputer and a 48-inch screen display with a multi-touch interface.

The Viz Lab also is equipped with the most advanced haptic device on a college campus, a wonderful tool to practice surgical simulations and other techniques. The haptic device provides six degrees of freedom motion and five degrees of freedom force-torque feedback. The laboratory also has large screen 3-D stereoscopic display device, giant multi-touch screen control, and multi-channel video conferencing and Web-casting capability.

The Research and Instructional Technology Suite also includes the Department of Online Learning, which helps UTSA faculty and teaching assistants use learning technologies and the pedagogy of technology-based learning to build effective online courses. The department also provides assistance to faculty seeking to develop hybrid courses, courses that include both a classroom component and an online learning component.

The Faculty Instructional Technology (FIT) Laboratory, managed by the Department of Online Learning, includes a podium setup that allows faculty to practice with new classroom technologies exactly as they exist in classrooms across campus. The FIT Laboratory also includes a multimedia studio that enables faculty to record brief lectures to enhance student learning with high-end hardware and software for audio and video editing. Multimedia experts and instructional designers and developers are available in the FIT Laboratory to provide consulting services to faculty members who want to update their instruction.

"Technology enhances the scholarly work of our students and faculty," said John Frederick, UTSA provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Through this center, we can better serve the needs of our scholars, augment our instructional capabilities and help students visualize the future."