University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2008-2009 Activities Report


On September 25, Provost James V. Maher delivered the Councilís charge.He asked Council members to

  • work with the co-directors of the Center for Simulation and Modeling to stimulate greater faculty participation in the Centerís activities.
  • work with the aforementioned Center to support the academic computing seminar series.
  • work with CSSD as it explores trends in academic computing and how they might affect the University.

Provost Maher emphasized that Council members can provide advice on the computing resources that the Schools require.Due the complex computing needs of faculty researchers, Universities must do more than simply manage computing software.The Center for Simulation and Modeling and CSSD also can respond to these needs.


Members of the Council met on May 21 to create an agenda for the upcoming academic year.Areas of interest included:

  • Inviting world-renowned speakers to discuss the future of academic computing.These individuals would meet with the Council and with other interested parties.
  • Meeting with faculty members from the Simulation and Modeling Center to discuss plans for an advanced degree in scientific computing.
  • Meeting with members of the Center for Molecular and Materials Simulations to discuss courses on multi-scale computing.
  • Working with social scientists to determine how they could use the Universityís parallel computing facilities.
  • Hosting a session during which Council members brainstorm about the future of academic computing.
  • Sponsoring a seminar for graduate students, in which they learn how to create professional quality web pages.


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

Strategic Plan

CSSD is developing a new strategic plan, which will formalize the unitís priorities for the next three years.Ms. Waltonís staff is conducting benchmarking surveys in order to gauge how other universities manage their computing resources.CSSD will then solicit input from the Universityís faculty members, staff, and students.

Internet Spam

University graduates are permitted to maintain a University account for one year after graduation.Many former students forward mail from this account to another provider, such as Googleís Gmail.As a result, spam that would have been caught by the Universityís spam filter is redirected elsewhere.The University has been flagged as a spam source several times.CSSD is working to correct this problem.

Miscellaneous Issues

Several changes to CSSD systems were discussed, such as updates to or launches of:

  • The University's IMAP e-mail system
  • Blackboard
  • A web-conferencing service

Other topics of discussion included:

  • The password reset service, which enables students, faculty, and staff who have forgotten their computing account passwords to reset them online.
  • Guest wireless service, which offers short-term wireless access to individuals who are not affiliated with the University.


Center for Simulation and Modeling

Ken Jordan, Professor of Chemistry, discussed the Center for Simulation and Modeling, which he co-directs.The most challenging computational problems in a wide range of disciplines require multi-scale techniques, which allow simulation to bridge orders of magnitude in time and length scales.The Center will provide the know-how and resources to develop methods that exploit multi-scale modeling.In particular, the Center will provide technical support for faculty members and students, sponsor and coordinate courses in advanced computing, and support a lecture series on topics related to advanced computing.

Multi-scale techniques require greater computing power than is typically available to a single researcher.Until recently, increases in CPU speed almost singlehandedly drove enhancements in computing power.Further significant developments will depend upon increased numbers of cores per CPU and parallel computing.The Center will provide computing resources that build upon these advances.Resources will be available at the Center for Molecular and Materials Simulations; via a campus-wide network called PittGrid; and at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

Department of Computer Science

Rami Melham, Chair of the Department of Computer Science, discussed his departmentís research foci.Departmental faculty conduct research in each of the core areas of computer science: artificial intelligence, algorithms, databases, systems, and networks.Faculty members are also expanding into new areas, such as data visualization and medical imaging.The departmentís research is often interdisciplinary in nature.Individuals within the department collaborate with faculty members from other departments within the School of Arts and Sciences and from the Universityís other schools.Many of these research programs carry over into the departmentís educational mission.Interdisciplinary educational programs include: intelligent systems, scientific computing, computer engineering, computational biology, bioinformatics, and telecommunications.


Council members discussed several other issues during the year.They include:

  • NSF infrastructure grants
  • The Center for Simulation and Modeling
  • Science 2008
  • The doctoral program in scientific computing




George E. Klinzing

Office of the Provost



Arts and Sciences


William Layton


Taieb Znati

Computer Science



Health Sciences


Julius Kitutu


J.B. McGee


Michael McCue


Michael Zemaitis




Professional Schools


Aaron Swoboda


Robert Parker


Esther Gal-Or


George Pike


Doug Metzler


Kevin Kim




Regional Campuses


Melanie Anderson


Lisa Bell-Loncella


Amber McAlister

Greensburg/Fine Arts



Senate Computer Usage Committee


George Pike


Fran Yarger

Health Sciences Library System



Staff Liason


Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development