RENCI partners with four Carolina researchers on faculty fellow projects

CHAPEL HILL, NC, June 18, 2007 — Four faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been named Faculty Fellows of the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) and will spend the next year working closely with RENCI staff on innovative research projects that use advanced technologies.

The work of the 2007-2008 RENCI Faculty Fellows spans medicine, the visual arts, economic development and information science. As Faculty Fellows, the researchers will collaborate with RENCI staff and have access to RENCI high-performance computing, storage, visualization and data management/analysis resources, and to sensor and hardware prototyping capabilities. Each fellow is eligible for up to $50,000 to support travel, salaries, equipment and other research needs.

“The breadth and scope of our Faculty Fellows projects underscore RENCI’s overall mission of fostering multidisciplinary research, intellectual discovery, and technological innovation to benefit North Carolina and the nation,” RENCI Director Dan Reed said. “This program was created to stimulate exciting and important partnerships among Carolina faculty and RENCI staff. My hope is that our fellows will have the chance to take approaches and make discoveries that wouldn’t have been possible without their RENCI partnership.”

Fellowships cover the 2007-2008 academic year, although work with the four fellows has already begun. The Faculty Fellows are:

  • Catherine Blake, assistant professor, School of Information and Library Science. Blake will work with RENCI information retrieval experts to create an information synthesis system, a method for retrieving information across disciplinary boundaries that addresses the differences in semantics and syntax used by different disciplines. Called Claim Jumper, to signify modern-day gold miners searching for nuggets of knowledge on the cyber frontier, the system will automatically generate summaries of information in literature from many disciplines. The system is meant to address the increasing need for information from many disciplines by researchers and practitioners in public health, environmental science, education, genomics, and economics, and other fields.
  • Charles C. Finley, research associate professor, School of Medicine, department of otolaryngology, joint department of biomedical engineering (UNC and NC State). Finley’s research team will use high-performance computing and advanced visualization tools to improve the design and application of cochlear implants, devices that have helped to restore functional speech understanding in patients with severe hearing losses. Finley will develop patient-specific computational models to determine the final positioning of electrode contacts in the implant that take advantage of the patients’ functioning neurons. These models also will provide insight into the stimulation mechanism that occurs in the cochlea, which could impact the design and fitting of implant devices.
  • Joyce Rudinsky, associate professor, communication studies. Rudinsky is a visual artist who will participate in the Carolina Performing Arts’ Death Penalty Examined project, a season-long campus- and community-wide exploration of death penalty issues. She will work with RENCI visualization and collaborative technologies specialists to create a media installation that will surround viewers with images, and video and audio recordings that offer thoughts and insights on capital punishment. The system will have a spatial tracking system so that when viewers enter the installation, it will track their actions and focus of attention and then use that information to determine what to present next.
  • Ted Zoller, assistant professor, Kenan-Flagler Business School. Zoller aims to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the underlying economic activities that lead to the creation of technopoles—a term used to describe regions and economic development activities in those regions that favor the development of entrepreneurial firms based on advanced technology R&D. Research Triangle Park (RTP) is a technopole, and Zoller’s project will identify the factors that explain firm formation and development in RTP. The data will be analyzed using RENCI’s capabilities in advance visualization techniques, social networking analysis and computational modeling.