$350K NSF grant to UMaine to support statewide research, outreach with new high-performance computational instrument

A project led by the University of Maine School of Computing and Information Science to develop a high-performance computing instrument has received a $350,000 National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant. Roy Turner, associate professor of computer science at UMaine, will lead the project.  

Deep learning (a subfield of artificial intelligence), modeling and simulation, and visualization are key technologies in many research fields, and depend on high-performance computing. The project team plans to create an extremely high-performance computing instrument comprising a cluster of high-end general-purpose GPUs (GPGPUs) that will support these needs for research at UMaine and across the state. The computational power of the instrument will be equivalent to that of tens of thousands of high-end CPUs (central processing units), and it will be flexible and able to be shared among multiple projects simultaneously or used by a single project if extreme capacity is needed, according to the researchers.

The project, “Acquisition of a high-performance computing instrument to support deep learning, modeling/simulation, and visualization for STEM,” aligns with the University of Maine System “Research and Development Plan.” 

Once completed, the instrument will speed up computing processes for existing projects, and enable new projects that require a level of computing power that previously would have been unachievable in a reasonable amount of time with existing resources. This new computing capacity will make UMaine more competitive for national grants, and will facilitate research statewide, according to Turner. 

The researchers expect broader contributions of the project to include scientific advances, increased use of deep learning in STEM projects, outreach to K–16 education and the public, training of undergraduate and graduate students, and enhancement to computational resources in underserved communities throughout the state. 

Co-project directors of the project are Peter Koons, a professor in the UMaine School of Earth and Climate Sciences and Climate Change Institute; Bruce Segee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMaine; Sofian Audry, assistant professor of communications and media at Clarkson University; and Huijie Xue, a professor in the UMaine School of Marine Sciences. 

The project also will support research across the University of Maine System and the state including at Colby College, Bowdoin College, University of Maine at Augusta, University of Southern Maine, and The Jackson Laboratory. Approximately 30 senior personnel from these and other institutions across the state are already affiliated with the grant. 

Contact: Cleo Barker, 207.581.3729