Center stresses need for integrated science, computer education

Allison Harris

Scientists and industry leaders agreed that integrating science and computer education will lead to greater progress during the 10th anniversary celebration of the Texas Advanced Computing Center on Friday.

Public Relations Coordinator Faith Singer-Villalobos said the center, located at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, became a leader in the field of supercomputing since its establishment in 2001.

“TACC has always been home to some of the most powerful and recognized supercomputers in the national science community,” Singer-Villalobos said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve supported thousands of scientists and researchers across all domains of science.”

On a panel at the celebration, Pat Teller, a UT-El Paso computer science professor, said computer departments should teach students how to create the type of computer structures that will help researchers working with multiple processors.

“A lot of computer science departments have an elective in parallel and distributed computing,” she said. “But really what has to be done is that parallelism has to be taught, in my opinion, from the get-go in the computer science program.”

Keith Gray, the manager of high-performance computing for BP America, said industries such as oil and gas are looking for students educated in computational science.

“These people are needed in the industry, and they seem to be a lot smarter and quicker and more agile than I was when I started programming,” he said.

Texas Advanced Computing Center Director Jay Boisseau said the center plans to expand support of all scientific research but focus particularly on computational medical, energy and environmental research projects. He said the center wanted to focus on these areas to take advantage of UT’s Jackson School of Geosciences, opportunities presented by the energy industry and the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

“They all have scientific value to society, but they all have sort of local scale impacts as well,” Boisseau said.

Physics senior Taylor Ratliff said he came to the celebration to learn more about the center.

“I agree that educating students is probably the biggest problem we face,” said Ratliff, who is an undergraduate research assistant at the center. “And that’s the case in a lot of fields. The methods haven’t reflected the changes in our society.”