University of Cincinnati Earns Federal and State Awards
To Boost Research Efforts in High-Speed Computing

Dec. 10, 1998
Contact for photos or information: Chris Curran
(513) 556-1806 (O)

Cincinnati -- The University of Cincinnati has received more than $800,000 in federal and state grants to fund researchers in high-speed network computing and to provide the hardware and technology necessary to link UC faculty and students with other researchers and students worldwide. A summary of the projects and awards follows:


The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded UC a $338,000 grant to become part of the vBNS (very high performance Backbone Network Service) being developed jointly by MCI and NSF for the Next Generation Internet and Internet Two. The overall project will take five years to complete and represents a $50 million investment in improved telecommunications services.

"Considering our current budget constraints, this initiative and the support of the NSF accelerates our entry into this next generation of advanced technology," said S. William Hitch, associate director in the Center for Information Technology Services and one of the co- principal investigators on the project. "Not all institutions have been afforded this opportunity."

Access through the vBNS will give UC faculty on all campuses the opportunity to collaborate with cutting-edge researchers anywhere in the world. The increase in speed was probably best summed up by Robert Frank, associate dean for research and advanced studies, who said current access is like filling a swimming pool with a garden hose. The vBNS is like having a pipe big enough to fill the pool in seconds. Projects range from the fine arts to the hard sciences.

Mutual Reality Project: Benjamin Britton, associate professor of fine art, uses 3-D computer programming to produce what he calls "mutual reality." Users in remote locations can share experiences and interact through computing networks. The vBNS work is an extension of his MOON project, which will allow individuals to re-enact Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind."

Molecular Modeling Project: Thomas Beck, professor of chemistry, will develop visual images of molecular motions, up to 10,000 molecules moving at once. Calculations will be done using the Cray supercomputer in Columbus can handle the calculations, but transferring the image files back to Cincinnati was virtually impossible before vBNS. "If you want to do anything resembling an animation, you need this higher speed data link," said Beck.


The National Science Foundation awarded the department of electrical and computer engineering and computer science (ECECS) $200,000 to install a high-speed network of computer workstations. The workstations represent a test-bed where engineers and computer scientists can develop faster and more reliable applications in distributed computing.

Distributed and networked computing have major advantages over running programs on a single computer. Imagine a factory trying to produce a car with only one worker on the line and ten workers watching. Computing power is very similar. An office or lab might have many workstations, but only one big problem at a time. "If one could harness idle workstations, we'd really have something," said Jerry Paul, principal investigator on the NSF project. Four individual projects were funded:

Validation of Routing Schemes in Distributed Computing Environments:

This project is aimed at improving the efficiency of communication services on distributed networks. Two very different approaches will be developed and tested to see which performs best.

Optimistic Compiler Optimization: This project looks at networks involving different types of computers and network connections. Resarchers will try to improve the way parts of programs are divided or partitioned and scheduled on these heterogeneous networks.

Distributed Decision Support and Data Mining: Data mining is a technique that can dig out information buried in data sets on a single computer. This project will develop algorithms for use when data is stored on a distributed computing system.

Development of a Collaborative Computing Environment: This project will analyze system architecture and human-computer interface issues related to multimedia-based collaborations in distributed environment.


The OBR also provided $400,000 in special funding for inter-university collaborations in computer science. Five projects were funded, and UC was represented on each project, the only institution to earn that distinction. UC will also receive the lion's share of the funding, nearly half of the total award. Still, Paul said the emphasis should be on the collaboration, not the competition. "We're heading for a much more cooperative research environment. This is unprecedented, this level of cooperation among computer science and engineering programs in Ohio." The projects funded by OBR will cover problems in parallel processing, distributed networks, image processing, and network communications.


The Ohio Board of Regents awarded the University of Cincinnati one of four new Distinguished Professorships in computer science. Professor Dharma Agrawal, an expert in distributed computing, mobile and wireless communications, was named UC's Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering. He joined the faculty this quarter.

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