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Science & Tech

State Pledges $25 Million for Green Computing Center

Consortium includes BU, MIT, NU, and UMass

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Andrei Ruckenstein, BU vice president and associate provost for research. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Governor Deval Patrick last month pledged $25 million to help fund construction of a Green High-Performance Computing Center (GHPCC), to be powered by alternative energy. The center, which will be built in Holyoke, is projected to cost $100 million.

Patrick said the center, whose construction will begin this fall, will provide an infrastructure for research computing in life sciences, clean energy, and green computing, and will foster innovation in downtown Holyoke.

Last year, Boston University formed a consortium with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts to collaborate on the development of the center. Each of the schools is committed to spending $10 million on the construction of the facility. Last month, Northeastern University announced its intent to join the consortium, contributing another $10 million.

Andrei Ruckenstein, BU vice president and associate provost for research, says the GHPCC represents a significant partnership among state government, research universities, and private industry that “provides a vital piece of infrastructure for scientists and researchers, acting both as a hub for an unprecedented level of collaboration in research and development and education among higher education institutions, and as a catalyst for technology-based economic development.”

The center is intended to provide sufficient computing power to handle highly complex problems such as climate modeling and the analysis of large biomolecular and genetic networks underlying human diseases. The governor’s contribution is a critical component of the resources required to build the facility, Ruckenstein says, and will have long-term benefits for Holyoke, members of the GHPCC consortium, their industry partners, and the state.

“The consortium’s education and outreach agenda will mold a new generation of students for whom quantitative thinking and science will become part of popular culture,” he adds.

Patrick says the center will be powered largely by wind and hydroelectric power from the Connecticut River and will help Holyoke, one of the poorest cities in the state.

The center, which will target complex research problems in fields such as genomics and climate modeling, is a partnership between the state, private companies EMC Corporation and Cisco Systems, the John Adams Innovation Institute, the city of Holyoke, and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, as well as the four universities.

The GHPCC consortium represents some of the institutions with the largest computational needs, with the exception of research hospitals, which require a different infrastructure. The facility will lease space to other nonprofit institutions with smaller computational needs, and is also planning to allocate a small fraction of the center to short-term testing and demonstration projects by local businesses focused on new green technologies. 

“The initiative will establish Massachusetts as a major competitor in the area of computational research,” Ruckenstein says, “thanks to the collaborative efforts of some of the strongest research institutions in the world and their industrial partners.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @vickywaltz.

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