Grad students named Masters Fellows by RENCI at ECU

GREENVILLE, NC, May 19, 2008 – East Carolina University students Robert Howard, geological sciences, and  Christopher Betancourt, biology, will become the first RENCI at ECU Masters Fellows. The one-semester fellowships for fall 2008 provide support for students’ thesis work.

Howard’s project, “Models of Stormwater Runoff and Best Practices in Municipal Management” uses a hydrological model to predict the speed at which precipitation drains from a 2.5-square kilometer  area of Greenville near the Colonial Mall.  Pairing a soil permeability map with a graph portraying the predicted and actual runoff rates over time makes it possible to predict areas where flooding will occur.  Howard sees his work, still in its early stages, as potentially “enhancing the ability of the public to understand their own city,” and plans to compare this urban watershed with a rural one east of Greenville. Howard’s faculty advisor is Michael O’Driscoll.

Betancourt’s “Parallelizing Variable Time Step Landscape Simulations in Computational Models” is a custom-developed software toolkit for visualizing the output of a landscape model of sea-level rise. The toolkit enables the visualization of temporal sequences or snapshots of the ecosystem changes effected by rising sea level. The model demonstrates inundation and landscape changes for an area of the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana, and the toolkit will be available for the ongoing model development of sea level rise inundation and landscape changes in North Carolina as part of a research project at RENCI at ECU. Betancourt’s advisor is Enrique Reyes.

Qualified candidates from any program at ECU whose research is consistent with the RENCI engagement center’s mission were invited to apply for the fellowships, which include a $4,500 stipend for the candidate and a $500 stipend for the candidate’s advisor. As part of their work, the fellows will provide a policy brief or short article written for the general public about their research to be disseminated by RENCI at ECU. The center also will receive a copy of their completed theses. Each fellow will present their research at ECU’s Research Week in the spring of 2009.

RENCI…Catalyst for Innovation
The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together teams of talented researchers, engineers, technologists and leaders in government, business, the arts and humanities to attack major research questions and community issues in ways that accelerate discovery and drive innovation. RENCI has nationally significant expertise and capabilities in high performance computing, visualization, collaborative tools, networking, device prototyping, and data systems as well as engagement sites across the state. Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.  For more, see