University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2006-2007 Activities Report


On October 24, Provost Jim Maher delivered the Council’s charge.  He asked Council members to:

  • Work with academic departments and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to sponsor the academic computing seminar series.
  • Work with CSSD and University faculty members on computing issues that affect faculty, staff, and students.
  • Formulate strategies to develop computing intensive interdisciplinary teams.


Members of the Council met on May 23 to create an agenda for the upcoming academic year.  Areas of interest included:

  • Continuing to sponsor the advanced computing seminar series
  • Liaising with CSSD on computing issues of interest to faculty members
  • Sponsoring workshops on the pedagogical use of computers


The Council and the Simulation and Modeling Group sponsored two seminars in the spring.  George Karniadakis, Professor of Applied Mathematics at Brown University, presented on February 26, and Priya Vashishta, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Computer Science, and Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southern California, presented on March 26.  Both individuals participated in meetings with faculty members.

Multiscale Modeling: Algorithms and Applications

Dr. Karniadakis discussed multiscale modeling.  Methods in multiscale modeling can be roughly classified as sequential, concurrent, and coarse graining depending on the degree of separation of spatiotemporal scales.  He reviewed some representative methods and discussed in length the dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) method that bridges the scales between atomistic and continuum domains in fluid dynamics.  Dr. Karniadakis presented simulations from his arterial tree project both at the large scale and at the capillary level, where red blood cells are modeled in detail.

March Toward Petaflops: High Performance Computing and Research and Education in Computational Science and Engineering

Dr. Vashishta advocated a two-pronged approach to harnessing advances in computing technologies (including hardware, software, and algorithms).  First researchers should use the new generation of petaflop computers to carry out realistic simulations of complex systems and processes in the areas of materials, nanotechnology, and bioengineered systems.  Coupled with immersive and interactive visualization, these simulations will offer unprecedented opportunities for innovative research.  Second, graduate and undergraduate educational programs in science and engineering should incorporate these advances so that students are propelled into careers in emerging areas of nano, bio, and information technologies both in academic and industrial settings.


Jinx Walton, Director of CSSD, frequently reported on its activities.  Computing milestones and achievements often were announced.  The following is a breakdown by area:

Wireless Implementation Plan

In July 2006, CSSD began implementing a campus-wide wireless service that can be used by University of Pittsburgh students, faculty, and staff.  This new service, known as Wireless PittNet, provides secure and easy-to-use wireless access to the University’s network.  CSSD will complete the first phase of the two-phase project this summer.  The second phase will be completed in July 2008.  To date, the wireless service has been installed in 19 buildings.  CSSD will monitor usage patterns within the buildings to determine how to optimize coverage. 

Enterprise Exchange

Enterprise Exchange is a multifaceted email system that integrates numerous communications features.  CSSD recently installed Enterprise Exchange and is offering it, without cost, to all University departments.  Because it is centrally managed, system-wide changes more easily can be implemented and the server can be monitored by CSSD’s Network Operations Center.

Many departments possess their own exchange servers and pay the hardware, software, and personnel costs associated with the servers.  Departments can eliminate these costs if they adopt Enterprise Exchange.  The service can be tailored to the needs of individual units.

Miscellaneous Issues

Other topics of discussion included:

  • the Virtual Private Network (VPN) service
  • infringement of motion picture copyrights
  • sponsored and guest accounts
  • virus and spam filters
  • bandwidth upgrades and enhanced connectivity
  • network security and the Network Operations Center
  • Windows Vista
  • daylight savings time


Simulation and Modeling

Jeff Leitman, a member of the interdisciplinary simulation and modeling group (SAM), described the group’s activities.  SAM participants include approximately 30 faculty, staff, and students from the biological, health, information, physical, and social sciences.  Group members are united by a common interest in computer modeling.  The group hopes to enhance the University’s profile in this area by facilitating collaboration among researchers, sponsoring courses for students, and building computing infrastructure at the University.

Center for Molecular and Materials Simulations

Ken Jordan, Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Molecular and Materials Simulations (CMMS), discussed the future of high-performance computing at the University.  Eight faculty members with a range of expertise in theoretical and computational methods are the primary users of CMMS.  These individuals use cutting-edge computational approaches and CMMS’ state-of-the-art computing hardware to conduct multidisciplinary research at the chemistry-biology interface, in nanoscience and nanoscale engineering, and in energy-related disciplines.  Several challenges confront these researchers.  Most importantly, many of the grand-challenge computational problems involve many orders of magnitude in length or time, but current computational methods can handle only very narrow ranges of space and time.

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Ralph Roskies, Co-Scientific Director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, also discussed the future of high-performance computing.  He focused upon petascale computing.  Increases in computing power will be achieved not through novel computing architecture, as once believed, but through additional processors.  The petascale machines will present several operational challenges, such as additional power requirements and load balancing issues.  The NSF will award $200 million to a consortium to build a high-performance computer with sustained, petascale capability.  The machine, which will be operational by 2011, will enable scientists to model phenomena that they heretofore have been unable to model adequately.




George E. Klinzing

Office of the Provost



Arts and Sciences


Ahmed Amer

Computer Science

Taieb Znati

Computer Science



Health Sciences


Julius Kitutu


J.B. McGee


Bambang Parmanto


Michael Zemaitis




Professional Schools


Angela Foster


Robert Parker


Laurie Kirsch


Kevin Ashley


Doug Metzler


Dan Dewey




Regional Campuses


Melanie Anderson


Lisa Bell-Loncella


Clara Vana




Senate Computer Usage Committee


John Close

Dental Medicine



Staff Liason


Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development