University of Pittsburgh

Council on Academic Computing

2009-2010 Activities Report


On October 22, Provost James V. Maher delivered the Council’s charge.  He asked Council members to:

  • work with the co-directors and staff of the Simulation and Modeling Center to stimulate greater faculty participation in the Center’s activities.
  • work with the Simulation and Modeling Center, academic departments, and interdisciplinary teams to support the academic computing seminar series.

The Provost also asked Council members to:

  • develop an educational program (and possibly include seed funding), which encourages faculty members in the humanities and social sciences to use the University’s high performance computing resources.
  • work with CSSD as it explores trends in academic computing services and how they can be implemented at the University.


An increasing number of humanities scholars use computer-based analysis in their work.  The Office of the Provost currently is exploring how to expand the use of these methods at the University of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Klinzing has met with the relevant departmental chairs and other key individuals to discuss this topic.  They suggested several means through which to encourage this type of scholarship, such as offering technical support to humanities faculty members; providing seed funding for computing-based projects; and sponsoring a seminar series, in which the University’s faculty members and non-University scholars present their work.  Dr. Klinzing also invited David Birnbaum, Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Alison Stones, Professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, to speak before the Council.  Both individuals incorporate computer-intensive approaches into their scholarship.

Dr. Birnbaum uses computing approaches in his studies of Slavic texts.  He discussed several projects in which he coded manuscripts so that he could compare textual fragments both within and across manuscripts.  Dr. Birnbaum currently is working with colleagues to determine how watermarks can be used to date documents.  Computer scientists are using their expertise in image recognition to scan the watermarks, and philologists will use the images to compare them across a corpus of documents.  Dr. Stones works on illuminated manuscripts.  She has collaborated with the University's Digital Resource Library (DRL) to create publicly accessible searchable databases of images of medieval art and architecture, which are interlinked through keyword access to her website.  Dr. Stones’ currently completed DRL-medart projects offer images of the architecture and sculpture of the Benedictine Abbey of Vézelay and the architecture, sculpture, and stained glass of Cathedral of Chartres.


Ken Jordan, Professor of Chemistry, discussed the Center for Simulation and Modeling, which he co-directs.  The Center provides resources to all University researchers who conduct computationally intensive research.  Professor Jordan and the Center’s other Co-Director, Karl Johnson, are meeting with University faculty members in order to publicize the Center.  To date, they have met with more than 30 faculty and research groups.  Currently, the Center is helping to facilitate six research projects.

Since its inception, the Center has:

  • hired three consultants to help people prepare the programming code necessary to conduct their research.
  • sponsored two mini-courses in order to educate the University community in the use of parallel computing (and a third course is planned for 2010).

In the future, the Center will sponsor:

  • A three-day symposium on the application of graphics processing units (GPUs) in chemistry and materials science (jointly with the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center).
  • A seminar series, which will initially focus on University faculty members in order to familiarize them with each others’ work.

They have also submitted a proposal to NSF’s IGERT program, established a partnership program with NVIDIA, and attended Supercomputing Conference 2009.


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

Web Conferencing

CSSD is offering a web conferencing service to the University community.  The service, which is supported by WebEx software, combines real-time desktop file sharing with phone conferencing so that all meeting participants can communicate simultaneously.

Love Your Computer Week

Love Your Computer Week took place from February 16 to February 22.  CSSD sponsored an array of events, including software demonstrations, data backups, security engraving for laptops and USB keys, and PC and Macintosh information sessions.

Pitt Mobile

CSSD launched a service entitled Pitt Mobile, which enabled the University community to access essential Pitt information and services on their mobile devices.  CSSD staff are developing apps for use by University faculty, staff, and students.

Voicemail to E-mail

CSSD launched a Voice Mail to E-mail service, which delivers voice mail messages from an individual’s phone to his or her University e-mail inbox.  The service can be used with the University's Enterprise Exchange and Enterprise IMAP e-mail services.

Miscellaneous Issues

Other topics of discussion included:

  • Students can determine which computer-lab computers are available via CSSD’s Lab Line.
  • From April 22 (Earth Day) to June 5 (World Environment Day), CSSD offered a cell phone and PDA recycling service.
  • CSSD will upgrade and replace telephone service equipment in Oakland campus buildings during the summer of 2010.
  • CSSD is exploring the use of VMware to enable departments and researchers to establish virtual servers within the existing University computing infrastructure.

Ms. Walton also mentioned:

  • CSSD and Facebook and Twitter
  • Self-service password re-setting and printing
  • Improvements to the University portal
  • The new voicemail system
  • Disaster-recovery systems


The University applied for, but did not receive, an NSF grant, which would have enabled it to upgrade its high-performance computing environment.  The University proposed installing dense-wave multiplexing technology to upgrade the speed and capacity of the University’s data communications backbone.  The project focused upon links between the Network Operations Center, located in RIDC Park, and computing intensive units at the Pittsburgh campus.




George E. Klinzing

Office of the Provost



Arts and Sciences


William Layton


Donald Chiarulli

Computer Science



Health Sciences


Julius Kitutu


J.B. McGee


Michael McCue


Michael Zemaitis




Professional Schools


Aaron Swoboda


Alex Jones


Esther Gal-Or


George Pike


Michael Spring


Kevin Kim




Regional Campuses


Paul Bouthellier


Eunice Yang

Johnstown/Mechanical Engineering

Amber McAlister

Greensburg/Fine Arts



Senate Computer Usage Committee


Alex Labrinidis

FAS/Computer Science

Fran Yarger

Health Sciences Library System



Staff Liason


Jinx Walton

Computing Services and Systems Development