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(Boston) — Boston University Trustee Bahaa Hariri has pledged $15 million to establish an institute for computation and engineering that will support teams of University and outside experts pursuing transformative, interdisciplinary research, today announced BU President Robert A. Brown.
“We are extremely grateful for Bahaa Hariri’s visionary commitment in creating this institute at the nexus of modern computing and a range of critical applications,” said Boston University President Robert A. Brown. “Boston University has tremendous faculty and research activities in these areas, and the creation of the institute will build the foundation for new interdisciplinary collaborations across these boundaries.”
Set to open in Fall 2011, The Bahaa Hariri Institute for Computational Science and Engineering will propel discovery and innovation through the use of state-of-the-art computational approaches, as well as catalyze advances in the science of computing inspired by challenges from a multitude of disciplines.
“Supporting great research universities is an act of faith and a resilient commitment to contribute positively to the well-being of societies,” said Hariri, who has been a BU trustee since 2004. “My contribution today is a testimony to my father’s everlasting devotion to the pursuit of knowledge and an enduring hope to many around the world.”
“This is another example of extraordinary, pace-setting generosity on the part of the University’s trustee leadership,” said Robert A. Knox, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Bahaa has once again shown us how generosity combines with vision to move BU forward. It’s an exciting development for us all.”
The institute’s affiliated faculty will collaborate on research and educational initiatives targeting four broad “clusters”: biology and medicine; physical science and engineering; social and management sciences; and the arts, communication, and education.
“Computational and data-driven methods play a crucial role in all four of the targeted application clusters,” said Azer Bestavros, the institute’s founding director and professor of computer science in the BU College of Arts and Sciences. “Computational immunology research can dramatically advance how we come up with new vaccines. By fusing and mining geoscience data collected over time from multiple sources, we can tell what’s happening with the environment. Just think about how advances in social networking could influence business administration, sociology research, privacy legislations, and public policies.”
The institute will support two types of activities: workshops and research projects. The workshops will be intense discussions of up to several months’ duration involving BU faculty, research staff, and students, as well as visiting experts. At any one time the institute will support both exploratory workshops and specific research projects.
“Computing-based approaches have become critical for interpreting the ever-increasing amounts of data being collected in virtually all areas of human endeavor,” said Andrei Ruckenstein, BU vice president and associate provost for research. “This establishes a common need and also a common language among practitioners of very different disciplines. Promoting literacy in this language of computing among our students and faculty outside of scientific disciplines, as well as with the public at large, is also an important goal of the Hariri Institute.”
Ideas being considered for the official institute launch include a three-month workshop on the role of computation in health care delivery and a pilot research project on green computing that would be connected with the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, which is being built by a consortium that includes BU, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, and UMass, EMC Corporation, Cisco Systems, Inc., and the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Other projects under discussion include computation and the arts, the role of computation in pedagogy, and quantitative social sciences and policy.
Hariri is the son of assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was a BU trustee from 1990 to 2003, when he was named an honorary trustee. After his graduation from the University, Bahaa Hariri worked in his family’s construction and development company in Saudi Arabia until leaving to set up his own firm. He is founder and chairman of the Horizon Group, a property development and investment group operating in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon. He also founded Geneva-based investment portfolio company Exceed SA.
Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized private research university with more than 30,000 students participating in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.