Cathy Wu, Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and director of UD's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, helped lead seminars during the North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium meeting.


North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium evaluates past, plans for future


8:18 a.m., May 10, 2012--A team of research leaders from Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont came together recently for the annual North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (NECC) meeting. The meeting was held at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) in Newark.

The annual meeting was focused on bringing together experts from the five partner states to review the progress made in establishing a regional cyberinfrastructure for conducting 21st century research and educational activities in those states.

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The NECC was launched in 2006 with the goal of significantly upgrading broadband connectivity across the New England partner states and within institutions in Delaware. The project relies on $14 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR program and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) IDeA program, in addition to a well-coordinated plan among the partner states.

Attendees, including EPSCoR program director Sian Mooney, reviewed progress on the installation of fiber optic cable for the regional network, cyber-enabled research, workforce development and diversity, external engagement and sustainability.

Successful collaborations among NECC institutions have enabled them to assemble a critical mass of faculty expertise and instrumentation for conducting large-scale research projects of national interest.

The NECC meeting participants discussed the progress made on several collaborative research programs. These include a joint project to sequence the genome of the little skate, a fish that was strategically selected for sequencing by the NIH as one of 11 non-mammalian organisms that could provide missing information to better understand the human genome.

Little skate tissue was provided by researchers in Maine, the sequencing was conducted at the DBI, and the electronic data were stored in regionally distributed data servers—one at UD's Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) and a second one at the University of Maine in Orono.

Cathy Wu, Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and director of the CBCB, together with colleagues from the University of Vermont and the Mount Desert Biological Laboratory in Maine, presented three hands-on seminars in Delaware and Maine, which prepared a group of researchers to conduct online gene annotation support for the project.

In a related research project, scientists analyzed the metagenomes of algal blooms such as the red tide, which have made a significant economic impact on all of the NECC states.  

A third area of cyber-based research with significant implications is the development of environmental sensors that feed into a centralized database to predict key environmental events. UD climatologist Daniel Leathers, director of UD's Delaware Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Center (DEMAC), presented Delaware's status in this area of growing importance.

Attendees also discussed opportunities for future collaborations and developed a plan to build on the accomplishments to date.  

Asked for his thoughts on the consortium’s progress so far, UD’s senior associate provost for research development Karl Steiner replied, "The NECC has developed from an idea on the proverbial napkin in 2006 into a well-working, multi-state research collaboration that takes full advantage of today's cyber-based collaboration—developing and utilizing 21st century technology to interact and solve today's pressing scientific challenges. I could not be more thrilled with this team and the impact of the science that we can conduct together."

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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