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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Supercomputer to aid research at New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University has received funds to purchase a supercomputer that researchers say will help them study everything from how forest fires spread in New Mexico to how plants can be used to absorb heavy metals from contaminated areas.


ercomputer - which is expected to be on campus by early 2005 - will be one of the most powerful computers in New Mexico outside the national laboratories.

"Information modeling has been designated as one of New Mexico State University's key research areas," said Don Birx, interim vice provost for research. "This supercomputer will provide the resources we need to do good modeling."

NMSU has received a $240,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase a supercomputer. The university is providing an additional $40,000 for the purchase. The exact type of supercomputer that will be purchased has not been determined yet.

The proposal to the NSF was a collaborative one by NMSU's Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the departments of mechanical engineering and physics. Jeanine Cook, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the principal investigator on the project.

Initial users of the supercomputer will be Cook and Kwong Ng of the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boris Kiefer and Jacob Urquidi of physics, and Ian Leslie of mechanical engineering.

Leslie plans to use the supercomputer to conduct research for the U.S. Forest Service on how forest fires spread in New Mexico. Modeling wildfires is an important component to developing effective strategies for managing fires.

Kiefer and Urquidi plan to use the supercomputer to simulate how plants will absorb heavy metals from polluted areas. Using plants to clean up sites contaminated with metals such as copper and nickel is being considered as a cost-effective way to clean watersheds and meet the state's increasing demands for fresh water.

Ng plans to use the supercomputer to conduct research for the American Heart Association on the heart's electrical signals. Such simulation is important to optimize the delivery of electrical therapy treatments for patients with irregular heartbeats. Ng also plans to use the supercomputer to conduct research on the brain.

Cook plans to use the supercomputer to understand data access patterns in applications that will aid in developing more accurate models of microprocessors. These models are used to help develop the next generation of computer processors.

Currently, NMSU researchers who need access to a supercomputer have to borrow time on a computer located in other places such as Los Alamos or Sandia national laboratories.

"This will enable us to do what we want when we want to," Cook said.

Cook said the computer should help the university recruit faculty members and will enable students to learn new skills associated with the latest computer technology.