NSF-funded undergraduate researchers get a taste of life at RENCI

A panel of RENCI employees talks to NSF REU students during a recent visit.

On July 21, RENCI hosted 11 students and two professors from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The program allows undergraduates to actively participate in research in any of the areas of research funded by the NSF. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. As a part of their REU experience at North Carolina A & T State University, a group of undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds and several universities came to RENCI for an educational tour.

The visit began with a tour of the RENCI data center hosted by Marcin Silwowski, manager of cyberinfrastructure. He explained the various duties and tasks performed by the data center staff, such as running computational analyses of coastal storm surge and computing for genomic sequencing. Silowowski told the students that data storage and data clean-up (making sure data is as error free as possible) are major challenges for his group.

Chris Lenhardt, a RENCI domain scientist in environmental data science and systems, talked about environmental and geoscience modeling at RENCI, and Senior Translational Research Scientist Kimberly Robasky joined in to talk about the health sciences and bioinformatics programs at RENCI. The presentations were followed by a panel discussion with RENCI employees, who provided their insights on working in IT and research, the education needed for their jobs, and the career paths they followed that led them to RENCI. The discussion was moderated by Terrell Russell, iRODS Interim Chief Technologist, who started with a brief introduction to iRODS and RENCI. Panelist Claris Castillo, a senior computational and networked systems researcher, talked about her experience of working at RENCI and the collaborative work environment at RENCI, which makes it an enjoyable place to work. Another panelist, iRODS User Interface Designer and Developer Cesar Garde, agreed with Castillo’s assessment.

“Research is different than a for-profit business; sometimes you actually have the chance to ponder, explore and see what comes out,” he said. “What comes out with our team (the iRODS development team) is well-crafted software. We conduct science and research the proper way here.”

 After the panel discussion, every student had the opportunity to present their summer research projects to all of RENCI. The presentations followed the 3 x 5 rule: no more than three slides and five minutes, and included an explanation of the research problem, the work done to address it, and why it matters. The student topics were wide ranging, from mathematical modeling and analysis of HIV to hydrological modeling of a watershed to using high performance computers to develop self-driving cars.

The visit was arranged by Bala Ram, a professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the NC A&T State College of Engineering. Ram leads an REU site at NC A&T State focused on engineering modeling and computational research. The students who participated in the RENCI visit came from seven different colleges and universities, including four from NC A&T State.

For more information on the NSF REU program, click here.

-Deepti Kumra, student intern, project management


SAA award winning book has RENCI, UNC connections

The Waldo Gifford Leland Award is presented annually by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to an author or authors in recognition of “writing of superior excellence and usefulness in the field of archival history, theory, or practice.”

It’s an achievement worth bragging about, and this year, bragging rights belong to Philip C. Bantin, director of the archives and records management specialization at Indiana University, as well as to multiple chapter authors, including a team from RENCI, UNC-Chapel Hill and Harvard University. Read more…

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25th GENI Conference looks towards the future of advanced networking

The 25th GENI Engineering Conference hosted by Florida International University in March provided an excellent forum for over 100 participants from industry, academia and government to come together and discuss a variety of issues relevant to testbeds for at-scale experimentation in networking and distributed systems. Topics discussed included:

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  3. Research and education activities currently underway on GENI; and
  4. GENI transition activities that are underway.

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Nature article looks at consortia as a key to kickstarting open science

Note: RENCI has a successful track record in launching and sustaining consortia, including the iRODS Consortium and the National Consortium for Data Science. Now, a team of multidisciplinary, multi-institutional scientists has collected evidence showing consortia work as mechanisms that facilitate open science and data sharing. To read the full Nature article about the about their findings, click here.

Sharing research data, models and software to improve scientific reproducibility is becoming easier, however, changing the entrenched practices of the scientific community is a harder nut to crack.

In an article published March 30 in Nature, members of the Stakeholder Alignment Collaborative, including RENCI Senior Data Scientist Chris Lenhardt, point out that science, like most established institutions, finds change difficult to implement even when that change is positive. Open sharing of data and other resources, for example, can speed up the process of scientific discovery and enable discoveries to be more quickly translated into better products, treatments for diseases, and solutions to intractable problems.

Read more…

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Separating the wheat from the chaff in an age of bots and trolls

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A recent roundtable discussion sponsored by the South Big Data Hub examined the rapidly changing landscape for building online communities, sharing information, and creating what often appears to be a groundswell of support for particular points of view. Read more…

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First Southern Data Science Conference comes to Atlanta April 7

Register now at www.southerndatascience.com

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DataBridge tackles the problem of ‘dark data’

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