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XSEDE announces a series of milestones for University and STEM education

The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), a US project intended to encourage scientists to share computing resources, data, and expertise interactively, has announced two key milestones in the development of its services for universities. Firstly, its Campus Champions programme has reached 200 institutions across the United States and the partnership also announced that ten STEM students have been named in the XSEDE Scholars programme.

XSEDE, a five-year, $121-million project, supported by the US National Science Foundation, is a collection of integrated digital resources and services presented in a single virtual system that scientists can use to interactively share computing resources, data, and expertise. XSEDE currently supports 16 supercomputers and high-end visualisation and data analysis resources across the USA.

The Campus Champions programme is a collaborative effort between XSEDE and University representatives to promote the use of cyberinfrastructure in education and research. Similarly, the XSEDE Scholars programme is an outreach and educational effort that reveals the reach and potential of XSEDE's resources and services to students. The Campus Champions programme supports campus representatives as a local source of knowledge about XSEDE, as well as other digital services, opportunities and resources. With the addition of the University Of Maine There are now 253 champions at 200 institutions.

The XSEDE Scholars Programme is a programme for US students from underrepresented groups in the area of computational sciences. It aims to develop their knowledge of HPC but also provide opportunities to network with HPC experts and develop the student’s career prospects.

Dr Segee, a faculty member at the University of Maine, gave his views on the value that XSEDE brings to its partner organisations through the Campus Champions programme. He explained that ‘HPC resources are sort of like a car engine: researchers should have access to good ones, but the vast majority should not be installing and maintaining their own systems in order to move their research forward.’

XSEDE can act as the ‘mechanic ‘delivering expertise and support so a university can use its HPC resources more efficiently. Segee said: ‘The vast majority of research that uses supercomputers isn't research about supercomputers. XSEDE helps move the domain research forward by lowering the cyberinfrastructure barriers.’ Dr Segee currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in microprogramming, computer architecture, hardware applications of C, and industrial computer control at the University of Maine.

Campus Champion coordinator Kay Hunt has run the programme since its inception in 2008. Hunt said: ‘Dr Segee is a great champion to spotlight because he represents the needs of many campuses across the country. He has done tremendous research for decades now, and to have him join XSEDE as a Campus Champion is a perfect fit. He matches our other 252 champions in terms of his passion for high-performance computing research and his desire to help the community at large.’

Hunt explained that her role has changed with the success of the Campus Champions programme, ‘The last few quarters I haven't even needed to 'recruit' as I did when we first started. Scientists, researchers and engineers across the country know about Campus Champions and reach out to me about getting involved. The programme has absolutely taken off and is one of the stars of the XSEDE project’ said Hunt.

The programme aims to  not only provide researchers with information regarding high-performance computing and cyberinfrastructure specific to that campus, but champions can also become a source of start-up allocations or act as a liaison to interact directly with XSEDE staff.

In addition to the Champion Scholars programme and the management of HPC resources across the country, XSEDE also supports Universities through outreach and education programmes, training and campus bridging, which aims to connect universities and to facilitate the use of a wider array of digital resources by campus faculty and students. 

XSEDE has just selected the latest batch of Ten STEM students accepted onto its XSEDE Scholars programme, an outreach and educational effort that aims to reveal the full reach and potential of XSEDE's resources and services to undergraduates and graduates.

This 2015-16 cohort of students accepted onto the Scholars programme is the fifth generation of this project, which has a particular focus on engaging with underrepresented groups in computational science.

As part of the programme, the scholars attended the Blue Waters Petascale Institute, participated at the XSEDE15 conference leading the Student Speed Networking session. The student’s activities will continue throughout the year as they participate in at least six online technical training and mentoring webinars open to XSEDE Scholars and the general public, network with leaders in the XSEDE research community and will learn about research, internships and other career opportunities via an online community.

Seven of the scholars accepted onto the programme will be conducting year-long internships under the guidance of HPC mentors and will receive a $5,000 stipend. The students are expected to present their research at an XSEDE event, and write a paper or a final report.

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