YOUR DONATIONS AT WORK:
Computer Systems Lab
Dr. Shane Torbert, Computer Systems Lab Director, describes the Lab’s work:
“The Computer Systems Lab supports studies in theoretical and applied computational science, computer modeling, computer architecture, artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and supercomputing. Working in a UNIX environment, students are able to investigate a wide range of pure and applied research topics utilizing a variety of computer languages and styles. Projects fall within a broad spectrum of computer science areas spanning computer graphics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, high performance computing, collaborative open-source development, and grid/distributed computing.
“Notable projects include “Engineering Xylanase,” “Video Compression with a Tailored Optical Response,” “Personalizing Voice Computer Authentication,” “Monte Carlo Tree Search Heuristics,” and “A Novel Computational Agent-Based Model for the Outbreak, Spread, and Containment of Tuberculosis.”
“Over the last few years, Partnership Fund donations have made possible the acquisition of wide-screen monitors, graphics cards, video cards, Kinect sensors, and large-screen wall-mounted LED displays. The size and quality of the monitors are well beyond what we could obtain from the standard FCPS contract for IT equipment, and the graphics cards support hundreds of parallel threads so they can also be used as individualized parallel computing platforms.
“Thanks to the Campaign for TJ, in the fall of 2015, we obtained our most exciting recent acquisition, a computing cluster with 150 cores and 750 gigabytes of memory, plus 10,000 graphics cores and 48 gigabytes of graphics memory. The cluster, a major upgrade to our capacity for running code in parallel, fulfilled a need we identified years ago but that had become more critical as enrollment in our Parallel Computing classes increased.
“In the future, we hope to obtain a carbon flywheel inertial uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to replace the current source of emergency standby power, environmentally-unfriendly lead acid batteries, which can leak or even explode. The UPS would maintain power from the moment an outage hits until the backup generator turns on, a critical interlude for systems that crash almost immediately and then require rebooting. The UPS would cover not only our Lab’s equipment, but also sensitive systems located throughout the research wing and the school.”
Chemical Analysis Lab
Chemical Analysis Lab Director Dr. Brian Kennedy has overseen a laboratory transformation that began well before the renovation.
“When I became Lab Director in 2002, the classroom had about ten one-piece Mac computers and a finicky, old scanning infrared spectrometer that provided data to a plotter printer. I was essentially starting from scratch but was determined to pursue advanced instrumentation and opportunities for all students interested in chemical analysis research. Not only do students benefit tremendously from early exposure to equipment that they will use in their professional careers, but having professional-grade instrumentation also enables them to conduct more meaningful work.
“In 2005, the Partnership Fund made possible the purchase of a Fourier Transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR), and in 2010 funded a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS), marking the beginning of the Lab’s emergence as a college-level laboratory.
“Recently the Lab obtained several new spectrometers that will extend our students’ analytical capabilities:
- Raman spectrometer: This high-power spectrometer uses interchangeable lasers to detect molecular vibrations, which provide information on the sample’s molecular structure.
- Ten visible spectrophotometers: These instruments can be used for a variety of quantitative analyses, including determining the functional groups within a molecule.
- Replacement FTIR: Infrared spectrometers can be used to identify a sample or determine the amount of a certain material in that sample.
- Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (pico NMR): The last type of spectrometer to be reduced to a bench-top model, it is particularly useful in organic chemistry.
“Current project areas include:
- ‘Green’ chemistry
- Permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) for water remediation
- Quantum dots and photoactive polymers
- Inorganic coordination complexes
- Organic compound synthesis
- Kinetics and thermodynamics
- Environmental analysis methods
- Integrated instrumental analysis development
“Analytical equipment and techniques can be used for virtually any type of investigation, even in the social science fields. One 2015 senior used the GC/MS to analyze absorbed organic residues in archaeological ceramic samples excavated from Jamestown for her Chem Lab research project (at right).”