KU to explore large data applications at genomic biodiversity summit

Thursday, September 18, 2014

LAWRENCE – Scientists today use advanced computing systems to collect, analyze and store vast amounts of research data. The definition of “vast” has changed a lot since the days when computing meant slide rules, adding machines and paper punch cards. 

How much it’s changed will be explored Monday, Sept. 22, when the University of Kansas hosts a one-day summit on Large Data Management Genomic Biodiversity. The event in The Commons at Spooner Hall begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The full agenda is available online, along with required registration information.

The guidance computer for the Apollo moon-landing missions weighed 70 pounds and had much less memory than a modern flash drive. It was also far less powerful than a common cell phone. Exponential advances in hardware and software since the 1960s reflect the complex scientific problems that need solving today. 

Genomic diversity is one of many such problems. KU has resources in multiple departments that contribute to research in this field. These include the Biodiversity Institute, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Information Technology and Telecommunication Center, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and KU Information Technology. “Harnessing Information, Multiplying Knowledge” is one of the four KU Bold Aspirations strategic initiative themes and relates directly to the upcoming program.

KU speakers at the summit include Leonard Krishtalka, director of the Biodiversity Institute; Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor; and Paulyn Cartwright, associate professor, and Jorge Soberón, professor, ecology and evolutionary biology. 

Joining them on the program are Jack Gilbert, an environmental microbiologist at the Argonne National Laboratory, and Henry Neeman, associate vice president for research computing at the University of Oklahoma.

A special feature of the summit is the industry representatives on the program. Khalil Yazdi, chief information officer in residence for cloud services program development at Internet2, will speak, as will Dennis Gannon, director of cloud research strategy for Microsoft. The two companies are sponsoring the summit.