Stanley C. Ahalt is director of the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), professor of computer science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the head of the Biomedical Informatics Core for the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute (NC TraCS). He is principal investigator for the Water Science Software Institute project, which seeks to build a cyberinfrastructure for managing, sharing and using water science data. As director of RENCI, he was instrumental in launching two major data science initiatives: The National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS), a public-private partnership to address big data challenges and opportunities in research and business; and iRODS, an effort to develop a branch of the popular integrated Rule-Oriented Data System as enterprise-quality software, complete with rigorous testing and a robust, feature-rich code base.
Dr. Ahalt serves as a member of the executive board of the iRODS Consortium, an international group focused on long-term sustainability of the iRODS data management platform. He is also a co-PI with the DataNet Federation Consortium, a National Science Foundation project to prototype an integrated platform for sharing, using and managing data across distances and scientific fields. Other leadership roles include past chair of the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computing, former co-chair of the Ohio Broadband Council, extramural member of the National Cancer Institute’s Advanced Biomedical Computing Center’s Oversight Committee, and member of the Council on Competitiveness High Performance Computing Advisory Committee. He has authored or co-authored more than 120 technical papers and been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on research grants totaling more than $17 million. His recent research publications have focused on decoupling data through encryption.
Before coming to RENCI in 2009, Dr. Ahalt was executive director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) from 2003 – 2009 and a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The Ohio State University for 22 years. Ahalt launched several model programs at OSC, including Blue Collar Computing, a national program to bring high performance computing to a wide spectrum of industries and applications, and OSCnet, a leading high-speed research network for K-12 schools, higher education and economic development. He holds a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Clemson University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
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Ashok Krishnamurthy became deputy director of RENCI in February 2013. Previously, he was director of research and scientific development at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) and an associate professor in the computer and electrical engineering department at The Ohio State University. He also served as OSC’s co-interim executive director from September 2009 to August 2012. His work focuses on managing and enhancing research partnerships with faculty at UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University, building relationships between RENCI and Triangle area businesses, and leading efforts to bring new federal research funding to RENCI and its partner institutions.
Krishnamurthy played a crucial role in establishing OSC’s successful industrial outreach initiative called Blue Collar Computing. The program targets small and medium-sized businesses that lack high performance computing resources, providing them with the training, expertise, and advanced technology tools they need to enhance their companies’ competitiveness. He also helped develop and deploy cyberinfrastructure that allows researchers to easily access and use computing and storage resources at OSC.
Before his work at OSC and OSU, he served as the academic lead for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) High Performance Computing Modernization Program in the Integrated Modeling and Test area. He has designed and provided numerous training courses for DoD User Groups on all aspects of the MATLAB programming language.
Krishnamurthy holds PhD and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. His areas of expertise include high performance computing (HPC), cyberinfrastructure, data exploitation, HPC in industry, American competitiveness initiatives, signal and image processing, and software development.
Jay Aikat is the Chief Operating Officer in charge of managing day-to-day operations at RENCI. Previously, Aikat was a faculty member in the UNC-Chapel Hill department of computer science, where she gained renown for her research in computer networking and cloud security. She mentored several master’s and PhD students, taught undergraduate computer science classes, and worked to launch the Data@Carolina initiative. Prior to her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, she worked for eight years in leadership roles in Information Technology, mostly in academia. Aikat earned her PhD and MS in computer science from UNC-Chapel Hill. She also holds an MS in electrical and computer engineering from Ohio University and a BS in electrical and electronics engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology.
Ilya Baldin leads RENCI’s network research and infrastructure programs. He is a networking researcher with a wide range of interests, including high-speed optical network architectures, cross-layer interactions, novel signaling schemes, and network security. Before coming to RENCI, Baldin was the principal scientist at the Center for Advanced Network Research at the Research Triangle Institute and a network research engineer at the Advanced Network Research group at MCNC, where he was a team member and a leader of a number of federally funded research efforts. He holds PhD and MS degrees in computer science from North Carolina State University.
Brian Blanton is RENCI’s director of environmental initiatives and a coastal oceanographer with 15+ years of experience in coastal hazards and risk assessment, high performance computing, and earth sciences data analysis. He co-leads the Environmental Sciences group with Ray Idaszak, building connections between water-themed sciences and applications through sustainable software development and data management practices. His research usually involves applications of the storm-surge and wind-wave model ADCIRC, for problems such as how the Federal Emergency Management Agency computes coastal floodplain statistics, rapid statistical forecasting of storm surge, and risk-based coastal evacuation routing. He is also leading RENCI’s efforts in bridging the gap between academic research and industrial applications through NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers program. He earned a PhD (2003) in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a BS (1991) in mathematics from Armstrong State College in Savannah, Georgia.
Rob Fowler directs RENCI’s high performance computing research projects, including efforts to analyze the effectiveness of high-end systems in serving the needs of scientists and to develop software tools that enhance the performance of grid-enabled applications. Fowler was previously a senior research scientist in the department of computer science and associate director of the Center for High Performance Software Research at Rice University. He has served on the computer science faculty, in both regular and visiting positions, at several universities, including Rice, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Rochester and the University of Washington. He holds a PhD and master’s in computer science from the University of Washington and a physics degree from Harvard College.
Karen Green is RENCI’s director of communication and outreach. She manages all the institute’s internal and external communications, media relations, events and websites, and oversees RENCI’s education and outreach activities. She spent eight years at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), first as public information officer and later as associate director of public affairs. She worked as a communications specialist with University of Illinois Extension and has been a communications consultant for technology businesses and nonprofit organizations. Before her career in public affairs management, Green was a newspaper feature writer and columnist. Her writing, editing, and communications management efforts have won recognition from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Association of Women in Communication, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.
Ray Idaszak is RENCI’s director of collaborative environments. He leads a team of developers and engineers in using advanced engineering, open source, and analysis techniques in large development projects. Prior to joining RENCI, Idaszak spent 12 years as chief technology officer and member of the board of directors of a large display company, where the products his team brought to market earned several industry awards. His work has appeared in magazines including National Geographic, Time, Scientific American, Discover, the cover of IEEE Computer, and on the PBS shows NOVA and The Infinite Voyage. Idaszak has 12 patents and holds a computer science engineering degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
David A. Knowles is RENCI’s director of economic development and engagement. He works to connect RENCI initiatives and projects to the needs and interests of stakeholders in industry, government, research, and the broader community. In this capacity, he leads program development and operations activities for the National Consortium for Data Science and was part of the team that developed the iRODS Consortium and its membership and governance structure. He also led RENCI’s engagement center program, as well as programs to support entrepreneurs and startups from UNC-Chapel Hill. Knowles came to RENCI in 2006 from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was the business development manager for the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center, a division of the university’s Economic Development Institute. Previously, Knowles was vice president of operations for Interra International, Inc., an international commodity trading company, and chief operating officer of International Trade Management, Inc., an Atlanta firm that developed transactional software for food producers.
Charles Schmitt serves as RENCI’s chief technology officer and as director of informatics. In these roles, Schmitt provides technical guidance for RENCI’s strategic plans and directs projects in the area of informatics and data science. Since joining RENCI, Schmitt has led or participated in projects in the areas of data security, data mining and analysis, data management, genomic sequencing, bioinformatics, patient monitoring, and medical decision support. Schmitt serves as an investigator or principal investigator on grants from the NIH, NSF, and DHS, was the acting science information officer at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in 2014, and led the formation of the international iRODS Consortium in 2013. Prior to joining RENCI, he worked in industry in the areas of bioinformatics, data mining, and software engineering at IBM, BD Technologies, and several small companies. He holds a BS in physics and a PhD in computer science from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Lea Shanley is the founding co-Executive Director of the South Big Data Innovation Hub, facilitated by the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Georgia Tech. The South BD Hub is one of four sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Prior to this, Shanley served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at NASA, where she developed open innovation strategies and a grant program to facilitate contributions of the public to scientific research, and worked with the White House and US Federal government agencies on open innovation policy issues. She also was the chief organizer and co-founder of the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Community of Practice, which has grown to more than 250 federal staff from 40 federal departments and agencies. Shanley serves on the advisory boards of the Adler Planetarium’s Zooniverse program, and the Crowd & the Cloud, a 4-hour series for public television focusing on citizen science. She holds a PhD in Environment and Resources, with a focus on Geographic Information Science and remote sensing, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.