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CARC recipient of grants for cyberinfrastructure optimization, protecting sensitive data, SMART Grid projects

The University of New Mexico Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) is the recent recipient of two full grants totaling over a million dollars and will benefit from a third grant for $20 million. Two of the grants will improve and make CARC’s systems more efficient. The third will fund CARC resources in a consortium that seeks to modernize and revolutionize the state’s electrical grid.

Scalable Analysis, Management, and Protection of Research Artifacts (SAMPRA)

There is a lot of research going on at UNM that involves various kinds of sensitive data such as student records, health information about study participants, clinic patient information, and other identifiable information, explained CARC director Patrick Bridges, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) for the project. Other PIs are Kevin Comerford, director of Digital Initiatives at University Libraries; Vincent Clark, director of the Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center; Vince Calhoun, director of the Mind Research Network; and Brian Pietrewicz, deputy CIO of Computing Platforms at UNM Information Technologies.

“It’s not state secrets but it’s modestly confidential,” Bridges added.

People who do the research respect the confidentiality of the data, but there is no single infrastructure or method of managing and protecting it. Instead, various groups come up with their own methods unique to their own studies Bridges described as “a bunch of one-offs.”

The SAMPRA grant for $598,594 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding UNM to design and deploy a collection of software, hardware, and training for a system that will store and preserve the data, teach people to use it properly, and provide them with the training and expertise to use the hardware and software effectively to protect the data.

The project will enable UNM to compete more effectively for research grants and do more cutting-edge work in fields such as psychology, social sciences, and sponsored work such as research and development for startup industries. Bridges expects the system could be in operation in late 2020.

“We have the potential to really increase UNM’s ability to support innovation and technological and economic development for the community, Albuquerque, and the State of New Mexico,” Bridges said.

CDS&E: Optimization of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure through Data-Driven Computational Modeling

The Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering (CDS&E) grant for $523,643 from the NSF will address the challenge of allocating and balancing computing resources to allow researchers to run their applications most efficiently and effectively, Bridges said.

Modern scientific and big-data computing systems must balance multiple system attributes such as power, performance, and reliability to meet researchers’ demands, Bridges explained.

“We can guess but there is no way to calculate how systems that analyze data will perform in order to allocate resources appropriately. Researchers can wing it, we have best guesses, we can approximate for jobs, but we don’t really know.”

PI Bridges, along with assistant professor of Computer Science Trilce Estrada, and Majeed Hayat, formerly of UNM and now professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Marquette University, is spearheading the project, which will develop new mathematical models for running applications faster and cheaper and have the resources they need to run more effectively.

For instance, how will an application running on a system of four computers work if it’s run on 40 computers? “Will it take twice as long? Half as long?” Bridges explained. “We need to give them the resources they need. Not too much or not enough, no waste.”

The desired long-term impact of this research is to increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of current and emerging strategic computing systems. The techniques developed as part of this project will also be integrated with large-scale computing educational programs at UNM and across the country.

“We will use that new understanding to make the computers that are so essential to our everyday lives more effective for all of us.”

New Mexico SMART Grid Center

UNM is part of a statewide consortium that received a $20 million, five-year grant to modernize the electrical grid so it can better handle the renewable energy technologies of the future. The award for the New Mexico SMART Grid Center is from the NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). SMART stands for Sustainable, Modular, Adaptive, Resilient, and Transactive.

“We’re a part of doing the research on developing the next generation electric grid and the technical workforce development. It’s a large grant and we’re a small part,” Bridges said. The grant provides CARC with some funding for Bridges’ time and staff time to improve the CARC systems to support the research for the grant.

The grant will support research and an education program for the development of the modernized grid, transforming existing electricity distribution feeders into interconnected microgrids, including a facility at Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque. The project will train new professionals educated in the various aspects of the grid.

Members of the consortium include UNM, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Santa Fe Community College, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Microgrid Systems Laboratory. Industry partners include Siemens, PNM, the Electric Power Research Institute, Oracle and El Paso Electric.

The current grid is more than a century old and needs to be upgraded to accept new forms of energy such as wind and solar power and resist cyberattacks and extreme weather, something it’s not currently designed to do, Bridges explained. The grid will then allow the power to flow efficiently and reliably to accommodate user demands.

Andrea Mammoli, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the UNM Center for Emerging Energy Technologies, is the UNM technical lead on the project.