Dordt Faculty Member Receives $249,254 Grant From NSF

Sioux Center, Iowa — Dr. Manuela A.A. Ayee, assistant professor of engineering at Dordt University, has been awarded a $249,254 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for “Acquisition of a High-Performance Computing Cluster for Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching.” Ayee will serve as the principal investigator for the project, which begins on August 1.

Ayee says this NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant will significantly impact research and teaching at Dordt University by funding the acquisition of a new High-Performance Computing (HPC) cluster. The cutting-edge resources offered by this computing cluster will benefit a diverse group of users, including Dordt faculty and students in both STEM and non-STEM disciplines. She anticipates that exposure to the intensive research training opportunities afforded by the new HPC cluster will inspire faculty and students to further pursue interdisciplinary research projects that harness the unique power of high-performing computing.

During the three-year award period of this grant, approximately 50 undergraduate students will receive intensive research training experiences on the new HPC cluster in partnership with faculty mentors, who will engage in research ranging from medicinal chemistry to structural integrity of bridges. In addition, at least 1,500 undergraduate, local middle and high school, and faculty will work with the cluster as part of STEM courses and outreach activities.

Dr. Kristin Van De Griend, assistant director of research and scholarship at Dordt states that often, computing clusters of this caliber are only available at large, research-intensive universities. One of many goals of the STEM departments at Dordt is to attract students from diverse backgrounds into STEM careers, including women and underrepresented minorities. This grant will allow Dordt to have a powerful computing cluster that is accessible to a diverse group of faculty, Dordt students, as well as middle and high school teachers and students in the region.

Co-principal investigators include Dr. Nathan Tintle, professor of mathematics and statistics; Dr. Joshua Zhu, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Channon Visscher, professor of chemistry and planetary science; and Dr. Nick Breems, professor of computer science. These and other faculty members will utilize the cluster to facilitate projects and research training opportunities. For example, Ayee, who specializes in elucidating the mechanistic basis of cellular membrane perturbations by bioactive molecules that lead to pathophysiological outcomes, will collaborate with Zhu to employ molecular level simulation techniques applied to computational medicinal chemical analyses of issues related to atherosclerosis genesis and cancer treatment.

Ayee continues to say that the cluster will provide sufficient capacity to meet the growing demands of the interdisciplinary research projects proposed by allowing, for example, calculations that used to run for several days to be completed within a matter of hours.

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