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National Science Foundation gives grant to APSU


The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently approved a federal grant to fund a high-performance computer cluster to support multidisciplinary research at Austin Peay State University.

Totaling $176,177, the NSF project will be led by Dr. Alex King, associate professor of physics and principal investigator. Dr. Jaime Taylor, professor of physics and chair of the department of physics and astronomy, will serve as co-principle investigator.

In Fall 2006, King and Taylor were applauded nationally for developing physics courses that innovatively integrate computing. From more than 250 entries, they were one of four winners in an initiative by Computing in Science and Engineering (CiSE) magazine. The paper they co-authored, “Computation in Undergraduate Physics Courses,” was published in CiSE.

Working with them are six senior investigators: Dr. Kevin Schultz, assistant professor, and Dr. Allyn Smith, associate professor, both in the department of astronomy and physics; Dr. Rebecca Jones, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. William (Bud) Glunt, professor, and Dr. Sam Jator, associate professor, both in the department of mathematics; and Dr. Jim Vandergriff, associate professor of computer science.

“We're excited about the grant,” King said. “It's the largest pure research grant we've ever gotten in physics.” In reality, during the past 10 years, APSU has received only two National Science Foundation grants, totaling about $33,000.

According to King, the grant will fund a high-performance computing-cluster facility, consisting of 16 dual-core, dual-processor machines—making a total of 64 processor cores.

The facility will support research in such diverse areas as variable stars, protein folding, atomic physics, structural engineering, numerical solution of high-order differential equations and optimization of linear systems of equations.

King said, “All of these projects will include student researchers, and the experience acquired by faculty and student investigators will allow them to bring a new perspective into the classroom in advanced courses like Computational Methods, Applied Mathematics and Differential Equations.”

To be housed in the Sundquist Science Building, the facility will support classroom learning, with two weeks of computer time on the cluster per semester designated for undergraduate projects associated with coursework.

King said, “This will allow students to gain parallel processor computing experience through capstone projects in the computational methods, mathematics and computer science classes.”

Besides providing exceptional experiences for APSU students and faculty, Taylor points out that the cluster complements the new Governor's School in Computational Physics at APSU.

For more information, contact King by telephone at (931) 221-6102 or by e-mail at -- Dennie B. Burke