University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2007-2008 Activities Report


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

  • Continue to support the academic computing seminar series, which highlights trends in academic computing
  • Work with CSSD to explore trends in academic computing services in areas such as computing and technological infrastructure
  • Work with CSSD and University faculty members on computing issues that affect faculty, staff, and students


Members of the Council met on June 18 to create an agenda for the upcoming academic year.Areas of interest included:

  • Working with members of the Simulation and Modeling Center
  • Supporting and expanding the grid computing initiative
  • Liaising with CSSD on computing issues of interest to faculty members


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

The CSSD Mission

Ms. Walton discussed the goals of CSSD within the University community.CSSD endeavors to:

  • Maintain a robust technology infrastructure
  • Deliver anytime, anywhere network access
  • Protect university data
  • Support university services

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 service, known as Wireless PittNet, provides secure and easy-to-use wireless access to the Universityís network.CSSD completed the first phase of the two-phase project in the summer of 2007.The second phase will be completed in June 2008.CSSD monitors usage patterns within the Universityís buildings to determine how to optimize coverage.

Miscellaneous Issues

CSSD continues to offer Enterprise Exchange to University departments and units.Because it is centrally managed, system-wide changes can be implemented more easily and the server can be monitored by CSSDís Network Operations Center.Some 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.

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
  • the help desk
  • emergency notification service


CSSD Operational Headquarters

The Councilís May meeting was held at the Network Operations Center (NOC) facility of Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD).The RIDC computer facility, which houses the NOC, Help Desk, and data center, was originally built in 1970 to house the Universityís administrative computing operations.CSSD renovated the facility in 2004 and established the NOC, which is designed to monitor and respond to potential problems affecting the University network and the more than 500 servers that support critical University operations, including the PeopleSoft student information system, the PRISM financial system, PITTCat, Blackboard, enterprise email, and many others.The NOC prevents service disruptions by providing around-the-clock, proactive monitoring using a wide range of state-of-the-art monitoring and reporting tools.The RIDC facility now has two completely redundant electrical power feeds along with uninterruptible power supplies, and a redundant backup diesel generator system.

Department of Chemistry (Lillian Chong)

Lillian Chong, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, discussed her research on protein folding.Professor Chong uses theory and simulation to study how proteins fold, bind their partners, and catalyze reactions, with an emphasis on how malfunctions at the molecular level can be linked to clinical data for various diseases.Experiments often do not provide the structural details necessary to study these processes.A natural alternative is to use atomistic molecular dynamics simulations, which provide the time resolution and detail necessary for monitoring the step-by-step progression of conformational changes.Due to the large computational cost required for simulating these conformational changes, Professor Chong applies methods that take advantage of distributed computing by making effective use of a large ensemble of short, independent simulations.

Department of Chemistry (David Earl)

David Earl, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, uses the tools of computer simulation and statistical mechanics to study chemical, biological, and material processes.He focuses upon several areas, such as immune system dynamics and vaccine design, coarse-grained models of complex molecular species, zeolite nucleation and hypothetical structures, and biological evolution.Examples of Professor Earlís research include:

  • He uses models of protein structure and function, Monte Carlo simulations, and genetic algorithms to mimic selection in the immune system and pathogen evolution.
  • He studies how modularity, canalization, and robustness can evolve in biological systems and determines how these properties influence the evolution and evolvability of populations.
  • He is developing coarse-graining procedures and new computer simulation techniques that can bridge both time and length scales to study the properties of mesomorphic materials composed of complex molecular species with novel architectures.

Department of Computational Biology

Ivet Bahar, Chair of the Department of Computational Biology, discussed research in her department.Computational biology was established as a research discipline at the University in 2001, when the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics was created.The Department of Computational Biology was founded three years later.The departmentís faculty is interdisciplinary in nature and draws from numerous disciplines, including the biomedical, biological, computational, mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences.Members of the department use computational and theoretical approaches based on quantitative and physical sciences to advance scientific knowledge on biological systems.Faculty membersí research interests include computer-aided drug discovery, T-cell polarization, and protein-protein interaction.




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


Michael McCue


Michael Zemaitis




Professional Schools


Aaron Swoboda


Robert Parker


Esther Gal-Or


Kevin Ashley


Doug Metzler


Kevin Kim




Regional Campuses


Melanie Anderson


Lisa Bell-Loncella


Clara Vana




Senate Computer Usage Committee


George Pike


Fran Yarger

Health Sciences Library System



Staff Liason


Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development