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UTPA professor receives over $500,000 grant for PC Cluster
Posted: 11/08/2010
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The University of Texas-Pan American has received a grant of more than $500,000 to build a PC Cluster that will provide a high-performance computing environment to support engineering and science research projects, and to assist academic programs related to parallel computing labs and high-speed databases.

Dr. Yul Chu. assistant professor of electrical engineering at UTPA, received a $502,637 grant from the National Science Foundation's Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program to build a fast cluster computer called the High Performance Pan American Cluster (HiPAC)that will support engineering and science research projects.

The $502,637 grant, awarded by the National Science Foundation's Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program, will allow UTPA to build a fast cluster computer called the High Performance Pan American Cluster (HiPAC) that will be used by nine faculty members for six projects at the beginning stage. Dr. Yul Chu, assistant professor of electrical engineering and the principal investigator for the three-year grant, said this funding would be a valuable asset for the University in expanding research activities in the parallel computing area.

"With the HiPAC, we can implement most large-size computing simulations at UTPA to collect data within a short period of time. That means the HiPAC will enhance our research performance significantly. I believe it should be a very exciting project for faculty members at UTPA," Chu said.

A computer (or PC) cluster is a group of computers linked together to operate as one computer that is more powerful than a single machine.

In general, PC cluster allows researchers to make complex calculations, in areas such as weather forecasting, bio medical information, and drug design. The HiPAC will allow faculty members to develop simulation models and theoretical algorithms for a variety of projects that cover a wide range of disciplines from electrical engineering to geology.

Chu said the funding will also allow him to create a center that will oversee the MRI project.

"My job is to support current research projects, including mine, and to work together with other faculty members to build new projects using the HiPAC," Chu said.

Because of the magnitude of the HiPAC project, the faculty will be able to have some undergraduate and graduate students work with them on their research. It also allows the University to collaborate with other institutions such as South Texas College as well as area industries, Chu said.

One researcher looking forward to the creation of the cluster is Dr. David Allen, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Allen, who has been conducting ongoing research for the U.S. Army for about 20 years, including studies on the design of helmets soldiers wear, said he has had to send his work to be computed at the Army's research center in Aberdeen, Md. because the complexity of the computations, he said.

"It's right up my research alley," Allen said. "Once Dr. Chu's computer gets online I will be able to use it."