Council on Academic Computing

February 15, 2005

Meeting Summary


Hassan Karimi, Ralph Roskies, and Taieb Znati discussed PittGrid, an initiative that is designed to link and build upon the University’s computing resources.  PittGrid will permit University researchers to collaborate on research activities and to share computing resources.  Computer users will harness all available computing resources to enhance the processing and storage capacity that they normally possess. 

Professors Karimi and Roskies have developed an activity plan for the project and are working with Computing Services and Systems Development to implement it.  Professor Znati discussed National Science Foundation interest in grid computing; state-level grid computing initiates in Alabama, Indiana, and Texas; and the potential for state-level sponsorship of a grid-computing project in Pennsylvania.

High Performance Computing Initiative

Andrew Connolly, from the Physics and Astronomy Department, discussed his High Performance Computing Initiative project.  Professor Connolly used the funds for his project to test how grid computing can be applied to his research.  He studies how the physical properties of galaxies change as a function of the universe’s age and how galaxies cluster in the sky.  Professor Connolly analyzes the properties of galaxies by calculating the distributions of stars and comparing these distributions to those that would occur randomly.

Large, multi-frequency imaging surveys, such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (, form the foundation of Professor Connolly’s research.  These surveys permit astronomers to study hundreds of millions or stars and galaxies, but this research is data intensive and presents many computational challenges.  It can take hours, weeks, or even years to process the data necessary to conduct his research.  The time commitment would be lessened considerably if multiple processors could be harnessed via a grid.

Report from Computing Services and Systems Development

Jinx Walton, Director of Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD), discussed general CSSD operations: 

  • A new teleconferencing service has been established.  The service uses on-demand conferencing technology, so conference calls can be held without advance notice.
  • The spam filter has been available to the entire University community since last June.  Approximately 12 percent of University accounts have the spam filter installed.
  • Symantec announced a vulnerability in their virus software.  Additional information is available on the University’s technology web page.
  • CSSD has established a residential computer consulting program for students that live in the residence halls.


Other issues were also addressed:

  • Future speakers for the Council’s speakers program.
  • A second program on modeling and simulation.
  • Funding for the Pennsylvania Cyber Security Commercialization Initiative (PaCSCI).