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The five-year project will pursue better ‘science gateways’ to encourage broader research collaboration

The Discovery Partners Institute is among the recipients of a $7.5 million CyberInfrastructure Center of Excellence Award from the National Science Foundation.

The funding will support a five-year project to improve science gateways. These are web-based platforms that enable researchers from multiple organizations to collaborate by sharing data and computational methods and accessing resources such as supercomputers while walled off from hackers and other unwanted outsiders.

DPI’s portion of the award is $540,000. This effort is led at DPI by Sandra Gesing, co-principal investigator responsible for its community-building outreach.

“These awards are extremely competitive and prestigious — only 10-15% of applications receive awards — and put DPI firmly on the national network for cyberinfrastructure that supports science,” said Venkat Venkatakrishnan, DPI’s director of research.

The project, dubbed SGX3, is led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center and also includes Purdue University, Indiana University, the Texas Advanced Computer Center and Elizabeth City State University, a historically Black college in North Carolina.

Since 2016, the project’s consortium, the Science Gateways Community Institute, has assisted more than 150 science gateways by providing development assistance, usability engagements and sustainability training.

Often, gateway operators and gateway end users have tended to see their roles in isolation from one another. Sometimes, that stymies collaboration. To unite them, this project aims to work with all sides to better understand the needs of the entire research community and national-scale cyberinfrastructure providers.

Broader impacts of the project could include enriching current relationships and cultivating new connections with minority-serving institutions to infuse gateway development into curricula; introducing domain-specific gateways to relevant classrooms and research settings; and training faculty to scale these efforts to grow and live beyond the project.

“All of our activities support this goal of our clientele, and greatly amplify the broader impact of SGX3 beyond its internal activities,” Gesing said. “By supporting science gateways serving diverse domains, SGX3 will accelerate socially and economically beneficial research that addresses, for example, climate change, improving global food sustainability, planning water and land use, innovating new materials, accelerating new medicine development and much more.”

Gesing is also co-principal investigator on a project titled “Sustainable software for sustainable manufacturing.” This initiative, which aims to develop open-source, high-performance computing simulation tools for additive manufacturing, recently received a $15,000 award from the Illinois Innovation Network. (The network is staffed by the University of Illinois System and is a collaboration of the state’s public universities.)

Gesing came to DPI and the University of Illinois at Chicago in mid-2021 as the scientific outreach and diversity, equity and inclusion lead for the research team. Previously, she was on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame in the department of computer science and engineering. She has a doctorate in computer science from the University of Tübingen in Germany.


About DPI

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: Train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support business building. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.