Tag Archive | "Center for Computational Science"


Center for Computational Science Fellows Program Accepting Applications for 2016-17

The Center for Computational Science is accepting applications for the CCS Fellows 2016-2017 Program through Friday, October 7. The program, which is open to graduate students in their second year or above, and to undergraduate students at the sophomore level or above, from any school or department at the University of Miami, is designed to inspire a new generation of leaders in computational science by offering students the opportunity to work in a broad cross-disciplinary research setting.

Two undergraduate students and two graduate students per year are selected out of the pool of applicants. CCS Fellows gain valuable computational skills, collaborative skills, and have an additional accolade on their CV. The program consistently results in continued cross-disciplinary collaborations among the participants, be they students or their faculty mentors.

Fellows will have the opportunity to use CCS’s world-class Advanced Computing facilities for their research, and to work closely with CCS faculty, members, and staff. Fellows are expected to conduct a research project for the duration of the fellowship under the guidance of two cross-disciplinary mentors. These mentors would normally include the student’s main advisor, and a faculty colleague from a different department with complementary interests and skills. Fellows may enroll in appropriate courses for research credits, and approach CCS faculty and staff for access to software or other facilities as needed, and they will present their work at the CCS Fellows Symposium in Spring 2017.

Applicants must be of good standing and have an interest in computational science. Applicants with either previous research experience or some existing computational skills, or both, will have an advantage.

For more information and to apply, visit the CCS Fellows website. For questions, contact ccseducation@med.miami.edu.


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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan

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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan

ZencitiSpecial to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 12, 2016)—In March, the University of Miami announced a hemispheric collaboration between its Center for Computational Science and the Yucatan State Government’s Information Technologies Innovation Center, which is known as Heuristic and located in the Yucatan Science and Technology Park. Taking that collaboration a step further, the UM School of Architecture, its Responsive Architecture and Design Lab, and the CCS will come together to design Zenciti, a smart city next to the science park.

“Instances where smart cities are designed and implemented from scratch are very rare,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of UMSoA and director of the RAD-UM Lab. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to design a hyper-connected city where urban infrastructure, municipal services, and social activities are orchestrated into a vibrant and sustainable environment.”

Zenciti came about when a group of developers and leaders in the IT industry joined forces for an opportunity they saw in the growing knowledge economy of Yucatan, spurred by its strategic geographic location and various other social and economic circumstances, including the Yucatan Science and Technology Park, located 30 minutes from downtown Merida. Zenciti will bring into play, among other things, a hub for tech startups that should create a synergy with the science park and fuel development.

Dean el-Khoury and his team think of Zenciti as a startup city: “Just like startup firms create something innovative that is hard to accommodate within existing companies, a startup city prototypes from the ground up a new way of life, something that departs from existing cities and the lifestyles, transactions, governance, and culture they enable,” he said.

Zenciti will occupy roughly 650 acres and will provide 6,000 jobs in the area, on top of the 4,000 that will be created by the science and technology park. The multidisciplinary team working on the smart city includes the following:

School of Architecture:
Rodolphe el-Khoury, PI/RAD-UM
Adib Cure – Architecture and Urban Design
Carie Penabad – Architecture and Urban Design
Juhong Park – Computation, Machine Learning, and Smart Systems
Mark Troen – Real Estate Development and Finance
Veruska Vasconez – Digital Media

Center for Computational Science:
Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury – PI/CCS Program Director Smart Cities
Chris Mader – Software Engineering
Joel Zysman – Advanced Computing

College of Engineering:
Wangda Zuo – Energy and Infrastructure
Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos – Responsive Structures

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UM Researchers Develop Blueprint to Thwart ISIS Online

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UM Researchers Develop Blueprint to Thwart ISIS Online

Neil Johnson and his team applied a mathematical equation to

UM physicist Neil Johnson and his team employed a mathematical equation to find serious social media support groups for ISIS.

By Deserae E. del Campo
and Maya Bell

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 16, 2016)—A team of University of Miami researchers has developed a model to identify behavioral patterns among serious online groups of ISIS supporters that could provide cyber police and other anti-terror watchdogs a roadmap to their activity and indicators when conditions are ripe for the onset of real-world attacks.

The researchers, who identified and analyzed second-by-second online records of 196 pro-ISIS groups operating during the first eight months of 2015, found that even though most of the 108,000-plus individual members of these self-organized groups probably never met, they had a striking ability to adapt and extend their online longevity, increase their size and number, reincarnate when shut down—and inspire “lone wolves” with no history of extremism to carry out horrific attacks like the nation’s deadliest mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando this week.

“It was like watching crystals forming. We were able to see how people were materializing around certain social groups; they were discussing and sharing information—all in real-time,” said Neil Johnson, a physicist in the College of Arts and Sciences who uses the laws of physics to study the collective behavior of not only particles but people. “The question is: Can there be a signal of how people are coming collectively together to do something without a proper system in place?”

The answer, according to the study—“New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and beyond,” to be published in the journal Science on June 17—is yes. Generalizing a mathematical equation commonly used in physics and chemistry to the development and growth of ad hoc pro-ISIS groups, Johnson and his research team witnessed the daily interactions that drove online support for these groups, or “aggregates,” and how they coalesced and proliferated prior to the onset of real-world campaigns.

The researchers suggest that by concentrating just on these relatively few groups of serious followers—those that discuss operational details like routes for financing and avoiding drone strikes—cyber police and other anti-terrorist watchdogs could monitor their buildup and transitions and thwart the potential onset of a burst of violence.

“This removes the guess work. With that road map, law enforcement can better navigate what is going on, who is doing what, while state security agencies can better monitor what might be developing,” said Johnson, who describes the research in an article he wrote for The Conversation, an academic blog. “So the message is: Find the aggregates—or at least a representative portion of them—and you have your hand on the pulse of the entire organization, in a way that you never could if you were to sift through the millions of Internet users and track specific individuals, or specific hashtags.”

While the Johnson team concentrated on the ecology of collective behavior, not on single individuals, he said their roadmap could eventually help security officials track individuals like Omar Mateen, who claimed allegiance to ISIS and other extremist groups during his shooting rampage that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub early Sunday. Authorities say the New York-born Florida man was a lone actor who was radicalized online.

“Our research suggests that any online ‘lone wolf’ actor will only truly be alone for short periods of time,” Johnson said. “As a result of the coalescence process that we observe in the online activity, any such lone wolf was either recently in an aggregate or will soon be in another one. With time, we would be able to track the trajectories of individuals through this ecology of aggregates.”

VK Social Media

The researchers unraveled the connections and communication of serious ISIS supporters on  VKontakte, Europe’s largest online social networking service, based in Russia.

For the study, Johnson and his research team monitored pro-ISIS groups on VKontakte, the largest online social networking service in Europe, which is based in Russia and has more than 350 million users from multiple cultures who speak multiple languages. Unlike on Facebook, which very quickly shuts down these groups, they are able to survive longer on VKontakte.

The researchers began their online search of pro-ISIS chatter manually, identifying specific social media hashtags, in multiple languages, which they used as “signals” to trace the more serious groups. Study co-author Stefan Wuchty, a computer science professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and member of the Center for Computational Science, compared the hashtag search to throwing a stone in a lake, watching the ripples, then following each one.

The hashtags were tracked to the online groups, and the data was fed into a software system that mounted the search; the results were repeated until the chase lead back to groups previously traced in the system. The mathematical equation Johnson and his team borrowed from chemistry and physics illustrated the fluctuation of online groups and pointed to possible predictions.

“The mathematics perfectly describes what we saw in real-time—how big and quickly these online groups grew and how quickly they were shut down by agencies or other monitoring groups,” Johnson said.

As cyber police or other anti-terror entities got better at shutting down the groups, Johnson and his team watched the groups reincarnate by changing their names and identities, or shutting themselves down and going quiet, as if they were in stealth mode, only to reappear under a different identity later.

“Much of the scientific community is focusing on different explanations as to why social media is so important, and I think we found research that presents a kind of crystallization method, looking at the dynamics of these groups and how they crystalize, appear, and morph into other groups.”

Johnson and his team’s quest to distinguish serious pro-ISIS support from casual chatter began largely by coincidence in 2014, when he was working on a grant from the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity to develop a model for predicting unrest or mass protest based on online activity. Just as that grant was concluding, ISIS emerged on the world stage, becoming a feared and familiar household name after the beheading of one then another U.S. journalist on camera. More would follow.

The second journalist to lose his life in such a ghastly fashion, Miami native Steven Sotloff, has ties to the University of Miami. To honor their son’s work overseas, his parents established the 2Lives: Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation, which awarded its first Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Endowed Scholarship to a UM student in the School of Communication.

In addition to Johnson and Wuchty, other coauthors of the Science study are UM’s Yulia Vorobyeva and Nicolas Velazquez, of the Department of International Studies; Minzhang Zheng, Andrew Gabriel, Hong Qi, Pedro Manrique, and Chaoming Song, all from the Department of Physics; Elvira Restrepo, of the Department of Geography and Regional Studies; and from Harvard University’s Department of Government, Daniela Johnson.

Johnson credited the College of Arts and Sciences Complexity Initiative, under which several of the co-authors were hired as faculty, for enabling researchers from such diverse disciplines to tackle such a significant real-world problem.

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Hemispheric Collaboration to Solve Pressing Problems


Hemispheric Collaboration to Solve Pressing Problems

MOU with Yucatan

The signers of the historic signing were, from left, Eric Rubio Barthell, general coordinator of advisors for the State of Yucatan; UM President Julio Frenk; and Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM executive vice president and provost.

The University of Miami’s Center for Computational Science and the Yucatan State Government, on behalf of its Information Technologies Innovation Center known as “Heuristic,” have signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize an agreement to work jointly on research, innovation and technology projects.

“This partnership will foster the hemispheric aspirations I referenced in my inauguration speech, but also I have learned that the founders of this University intended it to be a Pan American University,” UM President Julio Frenk said at the signing of the agreement on Thursday at the Newman Alumni Center. “This is part of our deliberate strategy to take advantage of Miami’s geographical location at the crossroads of the Americas and at the heart of the Americas.”

Thomas J. LeBlanc, UM’s executive vice president and provost, and Eric Rubio Barthell, general coordinator of advisors for the State of Yucatan, also participated in the signing ceremony, witnessed by a contingent of about 30 community leaders and UM dignitaries that included School of Architecture Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury and Nick Tsinoremas, director of the University’s Center for Computational Science.

Earlier in the day, Rubio Barthell and his delegation from the State of Yucatan toured UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, learning about the school’s new Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex and the SUSTAIN lab that features a wind-wave tank capable of generating category 5 hurricane-force winds. Later in the day, after the signing ceremony, the group visited the Network Access Point of the Americas in downtown Miami, where the Center for Computational Science’s powerful Pegasus supercomputer is located.

Rubio Barthell, who spoke on behalf of Rolando Zapata Bello, the Governor of Yucatan, said that he saw the partnership with UM as “the beginning of a great relationship between Yucatan and our closest brothers from Florida.”

“Yucatan is a dynamic place,” said Rubio Barthell. “We are a center for commerce, universities, and health care. Now we want to be the center for innovation, for research and for technology in higher education.”

The Yucatan government welcomed the partnership with UM in its quest to achieve excellence in research and technology, added Rubio Barthell.

At UM, a major research university engaged in more than $330 million in research and sponsored program expenditures annually, the Center for Computational Science (UM CCS) is engaged in nationally and internationally recognized interdisciplinary research programs that aim to solve the complex technological problems of modern society, using fundamental and applied aspects of computational science.

“The focus of this collaboration will be a shared research and development infrastructure based on computational science, and research and innovation projects using that infrastructure. We are especially excited about the potential for joint research and innovation in the area of smart cities, work that has the potential to engage faculty and students at UM from many different disciplines,” said Provost LeBlanc, who added that this project had started eight years ago.

The international collaboration will create a research center to be named The University of Miami Center for Computational Science for the Americas, which will ultimately be installed within “Heuristic,” an Information Technology Development cluster, with the objective of creating a prime environment for IT companies to strengthen their capacity for innovation. This will become the R&D (Research and Development) platform for technology initiatives in Latin America.

Since 2012, the Yucatan Government has invested in new infrastructure and provided funds for companies within both public and private sectors to position itself as Mexico’s leading research and development hub, with an emphasis on information and communication technology.

One of the Yucatan Government’s R&D projects is Parque Cientifico Tecnologico de Yucatan (PCTY), which was created to shelter institutions and enterprises dedicated to technology development and innovation. Within PCTY, and in partnership with the regional chapter of the Information Technology Chamber of Commerce (CANIETI), the Yucatan Government has funded and built the innovation center known as “Heuristic.”

Established in 2007, the University of Miami Center for Computational Science (www.ccs.miami.edu) provides the cyber infrastructure that addresses major research challenges. More than 1,500 faculty, researchers, staff, and students utilize the center as a nucleus for collaboration.

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Visualization Goes High Tech at Viz Lab


Visualization Goes High Tech at Viz Lab

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (January 20, 2016) – The aerial image of a Colombian shantytown appeared on the large display screen with such clarity that the 12 people gathered for the demonstration could identify the types and number of garments hanging from a clothesline on the rooftop of a shack.

“Just imagine what can be done with hurricane tracks and climatological data,” said Nick Tsinoremas, director of the University of Miami’s Center for Computational Science (CCS).

Tsinoremas was commending the visual and display capabilities of the 22-foot-long 2-D display monitor inside CCS’s new Visualization Lab. From a bird’s-eye view of a shantytown to an illustration of the branchlike projections of neurons called dendrites, the lab allows faculty members, researchers, scientists, and students to display high-resolution images, data, charts, and other information in visually stunning formats.

“This is a facility that will appeal to just about anyone on campus—architecture, business, the medical, and marine schools,” said Joel Zysman, director of high-performance computing for CCS. “Researchers can display their data like never before, but not only that, do something with that data such as perform live analysis.”

A tie-in with CCS’s Pegasus supercomputer makes that possible, allowing researchers to run simulations through the powerful device and then display their results on screen for analysis and discussion.

A plug-and-play system, the 2-D monitor is capable of displaying one large image or breaking up different components of data into as many as ten individual screens. A smaller 3-D monitor is also available, but content for that system must be specially created, and to experience the 3-D effect, special glasses must be worn.

Carie Penabad, associate professor in the School of Architecture, said she plans to use the Viz Lab at some point to present her ongoing research on shantytowns. With assistance from CCS, Penabad is using drones to map squatter settlements in Latin American countries such as Colombia and the Dominican Republic, using her charts to document and better understand areas not included on official local government maps yet are home to hundreds of thousands of people who live in horrid conditions.

“I can see all kinds of incredible projects that will be related to what our graduate students do,” said Gina Maranto, director of the undergraduate program in ecosystem science and policy, who gathered some of her students to attend a demo session of the lab, located on the third floor of the Ungar Building.

“They do a lot, especially the students who are working on things like vector-borne diseases,” explains Maranto. “We have three or four students who have been doing visualization and looking at land cover and trying to correlate mosquito and land cover and dengue or malaria outbreaks. Compared to working on a little screen or even a fairly large Apple screen—this stuff [the Visualization Lab] is just incredible.”

The CCS Viz Lab is a free resource for the UM community, but first-time use of the space requires an orientation session with a CCS support team. For more information on training sessions, email vizlab@miami.edu.



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