June 23, 2014
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Preview of University of Rochester's New Data Visualization Lab

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the University of Rochester provided the public an advanced look of its new data visualization lab. The new Visualization-Innovation-Science-Technology-Application (VISTA) Collaboratory lab was created as part of the Universitys Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (HSCCI). The lab creates the immersive visual experience necessary to allow researchers to understand and manipulate large and complex sets of scientific information, and one of the centerpieces of its commitment is to apply high performance computing and data science approaches to solve scientific problems.

 

The HSCCI project was identified as a priority project in 2012 by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) and awarded $5 million from New York State. It is part of a $30 million investment made by the University, New York State and IBM in HSCCI. More than $50 million has been invested in recent years to expand the Universitys high performance computational resources.

 

This new lab at the University at Rochester solidifies the Finger Lakes as a leading center for high performance computing and will accelerate the regions growth in the life sciences sector, said Governor Cuomo. This is another example of how the Regional Council initiative is supporting innovation and creating new opportunities in communities across the State, and I am proud that we were able to play a role in making VISTA a reality.

 

We are deeply grateful for the critical investment provided by New York State for the HSCCI, said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. This support, along with the commitments made by IBM, will enable us to create the state-of-the-art computational infrastructure and research resources necessary to make Rochester a national leader in the field of high performance computing and data sciences.

 

This new visualization lab represents the next step in the Universitys plans to create the state-of-the-art infrastructure necessary to become a leader in the field of data science, said Rob Clark, Ph.D., the vice president for Research at the University of Rochester and the dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. This resource will bring together experts in the fields of computer sciences, software development, and the physical and biological sciences to develop new tools that enable researchers to harness the potential of big data.

 

The VISTA Collaboratory, which is located in the Carlson Library in the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, completes the creation of what is essentially a massive scale, integrated, high performance supercomputing system. The display in the new lab consists of an array of 24 monitors, is 20 feet wide and 8 feet tall, and has a resolution (50 megapixels) approaching that of IMAX theaters. The visualization lab has a direct high speed fiber optic connection to the Universitys Data Center (and its with 16,384 processing cores), linking the display with an IBM Blue Gene/Q and the new IBM BlueHive 2 Linux supercomputer cluster which have a data storage capacity of 2 petabytes (or 2 million gigabytes).

 

Only a handful of other U.S. institutions such as Stanford University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed similar capabilities.

 

The visualization lab will be the key to not only helping scientists understand data, but it will also enable them to develop new analytical tools, collaborate with colleagues from other institutions, and train new generations of researchers and engineers in the field of data science. As a user facility available to industry, the lab is also expected to strengthen and expand existing research collaborations with companies like IBM, Xerox, and Wegmans, as well as attract new private sector partners.

 

From a research perspective, the large scale display helps scientists overcome a major hurdle: understanding and extracting meaningful observations from the large and complex data sets that are easier to obtain than process. The size, orientation, and high resolution capabilities of the display create an immersive experience that allows scientists to look at and compare large sets of data or observe fine details in the context of larger structures.

 

The best analytical tool we have is still the human brain, said David Topham, Ph.D. the executive director of the HSCCI and a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. We can see relationships between data that computers cannot. But in order to do that you have to have the information in front of you so you can see the patterns and connections that matter. In other words, you need to be able to see the forest and the trees simultaneously.

 

The new visualization lab, combined with Blue Gene/Q and BlueHive 2 systems, places the University of Rochester at the forefront of the national trend to unlock the potential of big data. Federal funding institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, are pressing scientists to not only employ high performance computing in their research, but to also develop new ways to analyze large sets of data and build sophisticated computer-generated simulations.

 

The unique capabilities of the HSCCI and other University computational resources has already helped generate more than $300 million in research funding over the last six years. The Universitys new Institute for Data Science (IDS) will create an estimated 460 construction and permanent jobs and generate $530 million in additional research funding over a ten year period.

 

The University will soon break ground on a new 50,000-square-foot building which will house the IDS and bear the Wegmans name in recognition of the Wegman Family Charitable Foundations recent $10 million gift. The IDS was also recently named by New York State as a Center for Excellence for Data Sciences. The building will serve as a hub for faculty and new data science research and education programs in the fields of medicine, science and engineering, the humanities, education, and business.

 

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said, Todays announcement further positions the University of Rochester to expand its role as a global leader in high performance computing and data science. Most importantly, this project enhances innovative collaborations with our private sector partners that in turn will accelerate job growth and lead to new investments throughout the region. I applaud Governor Cuomo, my follow members on the Regional Council and our incredible partners at the University of Rochester for their continued leadership and commitment to this project.

 

Senator Michael Ranzenhofer said, "I commend University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council for their efforts to develop the University's high performance computational resources with its newest Data Visualization Lab. The new VISTA Collaboratory is a major investment for both the University and the private sector, putting the University of Rochester on the map in terms of its big data capabilities.

 

Senator Joe Robach said, The VISTA Collaboratory is another resource that researchers at the University of Rochester will be able to utilize, further enhancing its standing as one of the nations leading research institutions. In my mind this is money well spent as we are providing additional resources to the talented faculty, students and researchers at UR, which is such an important part of the Rochester community.

 

Senator Patrick M. Gallivan said, The University of Rochester has always been a leader in high-tech innovation and research. This center will make it possible for educators, health scientists, entrepreneurs and students to better collaborate on the latest research. It allows the University to lead the way in data science and is an investment in the economic future of our region.

 

Senator Ted OBrien said, The VISTA Collaboratory is the product of a terrific partnership between government, higher education, and industry. U of R continues to position itself as a leader in cutting edge academic and technological research, including in the growing field of data science. This $5 million state investment will help this outstanding institution build on its record of innovation and create new economic opportunities for the Rochester and Finger Lakes Region.

 

Assemblyman Harry Bronson said, This is another exciting event in the field of medicine and research. I am pleased that New York State, through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, is able to partner with the University of Rochester on this cutting-edge research. In addition to helping the advancement of science, this facility and its work is estimated to create 900 jobs in the Rochester region and generate over $200 million in new research funding in the next decade. This is a win for science and our economy.

 

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said, Whether in manufacturing, imaging, or now data science, Monroe County has always been on the cutting edge when it comes to capitalizing on high-growth industries and the new VISTA Lab is sure to enhance our economy for years to come. Already our areas largest employer, the U of R deserves great credit for this Lab and for the many contributions it makes in our community every day. thanks also to the FLREDC and the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation for helping to make this project a reality.

 

We are excited for the limitless potential that the new data visualization lab at the University of Rochester will bring to our region, said Mayor Lovely A. Warren. We welcome innovative and transformational projects in Rochester such as the VISTA Collaboratory at the U of R. This powerful new tool will reinforce research collaborations between academia and industry partners, generate new research funding, attract entrepreneurs and push Rochester to the forefront of data science.

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