Interesting Lecture on Large-Scale Computing Problems

As we delve further into the era of large-scale computing, new and ever-more challenging problems present themselves for solving. Google Fellow, Luiz Andre Barroso, will be coming to Duke University on Nov. 18, 2013 to deliver a lecture entitled “Three Hard Problems in Large-Scale Computing” where he will present three examples of these types of problems, drawn from his experience with operating large computing systems at Google.

Dr. Barroso’s interests cover a wide variety of technical topics, from distributed systems software to computing platform design. He co-wrote The Datacenter as a Computer, the first textbook to describe the architecture of warehouse-scale computing systems, as well as a National Academies Report entitled “The Future of Computing Performance: Game Over or Next Level?”. He received his B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Pontificia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of Southern California. Dr. Barroso is an ACM Fellow and AAAS Fellow and serves on the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.

The lecture will take place from 4:00-5:00pm at North 311 at Duke. The event is part of the Triangle Computer Science Distinguished Lecturer Series. Contact Alvin R. Lebeck at directly for scheduling or questions.

RENCI Research Architect Presents on O’Reilly Webcast

RENCI Senior Research Software Architect Michael Shoffner will be featured in a live O’Reilly Media webinar tomorrow, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST). Shoffner, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), will be speaking about “Turning Bigger Data Into Better Healthcare: The direction clinical medicine is heading in the age of Big Data.” Shoffner’s talk will address one of the most important challenges facing the health care industry today: we now have more health-related data than ever before, but the technology to analyze this large influx of data is lacking.

Not only must healthcare data technology scale to petabytes of clinical genomics data, but it must also weave together data management with cybersecurity, on-demand analysis, and data-driven decision support for health professionals. It must assist patients and healthcare providers with the technology logistics of managing complex data, as well as provide protection for healthcare institutions by mitigating liability arising from protected health information.

Shoffner is the lead on RENCI’s Secure Medical Workspace (SMW) project, helping to develop the SMW system for UNC Hospitals in collaboration with NC TraCS and SILS. The SMW system was designed by combining a secure centralized infrastructure with virtualization and data leakage protection technologies to allow researchers to manipulate and analyze research data while ensuring that sensitive patient information remains within the SMW. Shoffner is now leading his team to pilot the next version of the software, which will have an increased security profile, be easier for researchers to use and provide an increased security profile.

The webcast will use the SMW project as an example to describe the direction clinical medicine is heading in the age of big data, highlighting key initiatives and challenges. It will be available for viewing at O’ and you can register to attend the virtual event at

Healthcare analytics in the spotlight

RENCI Senior Research Scientist Ketan Mane has been busy presenting on a topic that he understands well: How to help clinicians use patient data to improve their diagnosis and treatment decisions with easy-to-use, Web-based analytics.

Mane was part of a panel who presented at a Big Data and Healthcare webinar sponsored by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) on Oct. 23, where he talked about breakthroughs in health informatics and data visualization. He also had a paper accepted for presentation at the Workshop in Visual Analytics for Healthcare, which will be held in conjunction with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) meeting on Nov. 16 in Washington, DC.

Interestingly, two of the three panelists who were part of the MHTA webinar had RENCI connections. The other was Dr. Keith Kocis, of UNC Hospitals, who talked about the Hospital Monitoring Project. That project created a system for monitoring data from infants in intensive care units so that caregivers can spot trends and react to potential problems before they become crises. RENCI partnered with Kocis on the visual analytics that allows doctors and nurses to easily–and visually–decipher the monitoring data.


RENCI Director to appear on UNC-TV

RENCI’s Sharlini Sankaran, the Executive Director of REACH NC, will be speaking about the program on UNC-TV on October 16 at 3:15 p.m. She will be speaking about what  REACH NC is and why it is important.

The REACH NC program began as a way to allow North Carolina to tap into its own pool of experts and resources. It uses RENCI-developed technology to create a Web portal that enables users to search, browse and find thousands of experts and assets within North Carolina higher education and research institutions. REACH NC’s expert profiles can assist people in industry, community groups and university personnel in efforts to find information and potential collaborators for research and problem-solving.

Sharlini will also be explaining how the REACH NC system works and give some examples of success stories to illustrate to viewers how important this system is.

RENCI collaborates on award-winning paper

Paper authors (from right) Justin Zhan, Howard Lander, and Arcot Rajasekar with one of the conference's keynote speakers, Tom Mitchell of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science.

Paper authors (from right) Justin Zhan, Howard Lander, and Arcot Rajasekar with one of the conference’s keynote speakers, Tom Mitchell of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science.

Congratulations to RENCI staff Arcot Rajasekar, Sharlini Sankaran, and Howard Lander, whom, along with other collaborators, won the best paper award at the ASE/IEEE International Conference on Big Data! The conference paper acceptance rate is  8.5%, and their paper, entitled “The data bridge: Sociometric methods for long-tail scientific data”, was one of only two winners of the award.

The ASE/IEEE Conference was held in Washington D.C. from Sept. 8-14, and brought together scientists, researchers and scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results in Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering.

RENCI helps visualize National Geographic feature story on rising seas

To create an interactive image to demonstrate the effects of major tropical storms and storm surge in the future, National Geographic magazine turned to RENCI for assistance. Senior Research Scientist Brian Blanton helped the magazine staff interpret data they received from NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers on what Manhattan would look like if a storm the size of Hurricane Sandy hit in 100 years, when sea level could be as much five feet higher than it is now. The info graphic, which appeared online and in a center spread in the print magazine, uses data from the Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) modeling program, which was developed by the National Weather Service to estimate surge heights.

The graphic is part of a feature called “Rising Seas,” which analyzes the potential impacts and dangers of rising sea levels due to climate change. The image gives viewers a visual understanding of this hazard. The surge from Hurricane Sandy flooded many subway tunnels, knocked out lower Manhattan’s power grid, and caused widespread damage of cars and buildings. This postulated future flood would surge farther and deeper into the city, causing even greater damage unless new methods of mitigating surge effects are developed.

Check out the graphic and the full feature story here:

REACH NC named an Awards of Excellence finalist

RENCI collaborations are winning awards all over! The Research, Engagement, and Capabilities Hub of North Carolina (REACH NC) was recently selected as a finalist in the University Economic Development Association’s (UEDA) 2013 Awards of Excellence competition, in the Leadership & Collaboration category.

REACH NC is a searchable Web-based tool that allows scientists, academics, researchers and the business community to access profiles of experts at universities and research organizations across the state, in order to find people and resources needed to build research teams or to provide expert advice. The web interface compiles data from research publications, research grant awards and other sources to make it easier for faculty, university administrators, government agencies and the public to discover people with a particular expertise.

The REACH NC team, includes Sharlini Sankaran (REACH NC Executive Director) and  Monica Schledorn, who work closely with David Knowles, RENCI’s director of engagement and economic development. RENCI data experts built the data backbone for REACH NC and developed protocols for user access and data management and storage. RENCI staff also designed and implemented the Web front end for the tool. Hong Yi, a RENCI senior research software developer, created information visualizations that group experts by their areas of expertise and professional backgrounds.

Sankaran will give a presentation on the project at the UEDA Annual Summit in Pittsburgh in October. Summit participants will evaluate the finalists and select a winner in each award category.

We wish our team all the best of luck!

RENCI staff to present at International Conference

Two manuscripts by RENCI staff have been accepted for presentation at the 4th annual ACM International Conference on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology and Biomedical Informatics (ACM BCB). The papers are: “Visual Analytics to Optimize Patient-Population Evidence Delivery for Personalized Care” (authors include RENCI’s Ketan Mane, Phillips Owen, Charles Schmitt and Kirk Wilhelmsen); and “Predictive Model of the Treatment Effect for Patients with Major Depressive Disorder” (authors include Ketan Mane).


ACM BCB is the main flagship conference of ACM’s Special Interest Group on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology and Biomedical Informatics and will be held in Washington DC from September 22-25. It provides a forum for interdisciplinary research encompassing disciplines such as computer science, mathematics, statistics, biology, bioinformatics, and biomedicine.

We’re excited to see how these presentations go!

Congratulations Mary Whitton!


Congrats to RENCI Senior Project Manager Mary Whitton for winning the Outstanding Service Award at the USA SIGGRAPH 2013 International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques.

Now in its 40th year, the SIGGRAPH conference (sponsored by The Association for Computing Machinery) is the premier international event on computer graphics and interactive techniques. This year’s conference, held in Anaheim, CA, July 21-25, drew more than 20,000 professionals from five continents, including experts in science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web. It is one of the most prestigious forums for computer graphics research, digital art, and scientific visualization.

The awards presentation was held on the first day of the event to honor individuals with exceptional achievements in computer graphics. The Outstanding Service Award recognizes a career of outstanding service to ACM SIGGRAPH by a volunteer over a significant period of time. The criteria used to evaluate the award include importance of the service and the degree of sacrifice incurred by the volunteer.

Go Mary!

RENCI experts attending GENI Conference

Several members of RENCI are proudly representing us at the National Science Foundation GENI Engineering Conference in Madison, WI July 21-23. Bonnie Hurst, Ilya Baldin, Shu Huang and Yufeng Xin are at the Conference to promote ExoGENI, a nationwide test bed for networking and networked cloud computing involving RENCI, Duke University, and IBM.

ExoGENI is funded by the Project Office of the NSF Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI), a virtual laboratory which intends to open up new areas of research at the frontiers of network science and engineering by enabling deep programmability throughout the network, promoting innovations in network science, security, technologies, services and applications, and providing collaborative environments to catalyze innovation.

ExoGENI links GENI to two advances in virtual infrastructure services: open cloud computing and dynamic circuit fabrics. It orchestrates a federation of independent cloud sites across the U.S. and links them to other GENI resources. At the conference, these RENCI experts will hold tutorial sessions on ExoGENI, give live demos, and answer questions on how researchers can obtain ExoGENI for their own work.

Check out exactly what our experts will be doing at the Conference here!

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