Duke ITAC - June 1, 2017 Minutes

Duke ITAC - June 1, 2017 Minutes

4:00 - 4:10 – Announcements

No questions or comments regarding minutes for April 6th and May 4th.  Minutes Approved.

72 Hour Authentication and 2-factor for systems
At the last meeting, it was announced that there would be an expansion of two-factor authentication for a number of systems. Multifactor Authentication (MFA) will affect some, but not all, email access systems.  Some faculty users have been invited to test out the new functionality.  We will continue to gather information as more users engage.  There was a nuanced discussion around best practices to protect email, and what messages are being promulgated by the promotion of certain methods over others.

4:10- 4:35 – Bass Connections Showcase Update Laura Howes (15 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:   Bass Connections is a university-wide initiative that provides both graduate and undergraduate students with greater exposure through the creation of a distinctive new model for education, predicated on collaborative and interdisciplinary inquiry, that actively engages students in the exploration of big, unanswered questions about major societal challenges.  The showcase is a celebration of what the research teams of faculty, grad students, undergrads and community partners have accomplished throughout the year.

Why it’s relevant:  Duke University’s commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching is a signature part of the university’s identity and mission.  The goal of Bass Connections is to achieve genuine interdisciplinary education, which provides a careful balance of depth of knowledge needed to understand a problem from one discipline and the breadth across several disciplines needed to understand that problem in all its complexity.  


Overview

Bass Connections (BC) is a university wide program designed to engage students in hands-on, interdisciplinary, team-based learning.  BC is wrapping up its fourth year.  The element of BC that people are most familiar with is research project teams.  In addition to the research project teams, the administrators of BC are increasingly building out a set of experiences and pathways that students can take during their time at Duke in order to experience this interdisciplinary, cooperative model of learning. 


Project Teams

Most project teams have 5-12 students and at least 2 faculty.  Most teams work together for an academic term, some for an academic year, and some projects will also have a summer component.  Students get course credit for their participation in BC.

There were 42 different teams this year.  All projects and summer programs include teams comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students.  Graduate students on the teams take on the role of project managers and provide hands-on mentoring.  There are research grants for students who want to continue working on projects after the formal duration of the program.  Students may continue project work independently, usually in the form of a thesis.  However, this year, there were some students who continued working as a team after the duration of the program. 

Theme Areas and Open Access Channel

The teams fall within 5 broad theme areas:  

  1. Brain and Society
  2. Information, Society, and Culture
  3. Education and Human Development
  4. Global Health
  5. Energy

In 2017/2018, BC will be adding an option called “Open Access Channel”.  Open Access Channel will broaden the scope of the program by granting students and faculty the ability to propose projects that fall outside of the five theme areas.

Summer Programs: Data+ and Story+

The Data+ program is designed for those interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges. Data+ spans 10 weeks.  Story+ is geared toward those who are interested in using engaging storytelling methods to illuminate academic research findings.  Story+ spans 6 weeks.

There are 25 Data+ teams operating this summer.  Each team has a client.  A client can be a faculty member, an institutional organization, or an external company.  There have been many notable projects that come out of Data+.  For example, one team developed an algorithm to digitally age the modern restoration of a piece of artwork.  The challenge stemmed from a case where the NC Museum of Art reclaimed 8 out of 9 original panels of a painting.  A local artist was commissioned to recreate the 9th panel.  Because the artist used current techniques and materials, the 9th panel was more vivid and vibrant than the original panels.  The Data+ team used data to create a way to digitally age the single panel.  The same algorithm was then used to reverse the aging process to show what the entire painting looked like originally.  The painting is now traveling to museums around the US. The team is evaluating ways to deploy this tool to make it available to other museums around the country and around the globe.

Participation and Reach

This year, 250 undergraduate and 80 graduate students participated in the program.  Also, 150 faculty took part. For both the summer programs and the project teams, there is an element of external engagement.  To that end, the teams work with a number of community partners.  Community partners include non-profits, private companies, and higher education institutions. There was a total of 30 community partners. 

First Program-wide Showcase

This year, BC held its first ever program-wide showcase.  The showcase featured a poster session and lightening talks.  At the lightening talks, one team from each of the 5 disciplines gave a 5-minute presentation.  There was a big turnout!  There was great representation from all around campus.    Students enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to present on their projects.  One team, working within the Brain and Society theme, assessed the impact of head injury and trauma related to football.  They partnered with a football program at a local high school, and measured the impact of collision on the players during practice.  They used eye tracking devices to see how the players’ eyes were tracking differently after certain impacts.  Another team working within the Energy theme, presented on “Energy Data Analytics”.  They used algorithms to take an aerial image of anywhere in the world and identify the square footage of buildings in that space and how much energy was being used that building.  Further, they were able to extrapolate how much energy is being consumed in certain areas.  This particular project started as a Data+ summer project and moved into a full year long project.

Annual Evaluation

The annual evaluation found that students and faculty participate in the program for variety of reasons.  Students value the opportunity to do hands-on research, to apply what they are learning in an external setting, to communicate across disciplines, to work with graduate students and faculty, and to do research on teams.  Faculty enjoy working closely with students and other faculty, testing out ideas, and seeing different research experiences.  Sophomores and juniors are the largest represented populations, but there is a diverse group of majors. 

Questions

Q: There are 25 teams. How many students per team?

A: Most have 3 undergrads and 1 grad that mentors them. Students use a popular messaging application to engage with other teams within the program and to collaborate across projects.   

Q: Is faculty time donated or compensated?

A: It is donated.  The faculty team leaders are there on a day-to-day basis during the academic term.  However, with Data+, the graduate student mentors work more with the teams on a day-to-day basis, and the faculty serve more as a client role.

Q: Who runs Data+ and Story+?

A: The Data+ is run out of the Information Initiative at Duke.  There is a team in place that works to coordinate that programming.  Story+ is managed out of the Franklin Humanities Institute. 

Q: What are the funds used for?

A: Some funds go to support students’ stipends for summer experiences, some to support travel and field work.  Some of the funds are used for research supplies and materials. 


Q: How many students participate in Story+?

A: We are piloting Story+ this year.  It is structured similarly to Data+.  There are 5 teams.  There are 3 undergraduate students and 1 graduate student per team.  There are about 20 total participants in Story+.

Q: Do those projects cross humanities and sciences? Or, are they typically humanities based?

A: They are more humanities based this year.  We are looking for opportunities to mix Story+ and Data+.

Comments

“I’m leading a Data+ team this summer, and it’s very impressive.”

“Data+ is really exciting.  We went to the opening breakfast and there’s just an electricity in the air.”

 4:35- 4:55 – High Performance Computing Update, Mark DeLong (15 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is:  MPI (Message Passing Interface) computing requires very fast and efficient network connection ("low latency"). Duke has begun to build out a system that handles MPI computing. GPU computing is another form of accelerated computing that uses "graphics processors" (and some that are designed specifically for computation, too). 

Why it’s relevant:  These two forms of computing are increasingly important for researchers across a broad spectrum of disciplines, from engineering to the humanities. Making them available allows Duke researchers to explore emerging avenues of research.

Overview

There are types of computing that require special types of computing set-ups that the University hasn’t had on-hand in the past.  In general, more GPU cores translates to greater connection speed.  Through testing, however, researchers have found that at the point where signals needed to leap from one machine to another and thus rely on the network, the connection gets slower as you add more cores.  The connection becomes worse and not better.  The ideal execution is approximated by a low-latency interconnect that is typical of supercomputing networks.  That interconnect is now deployed at Duke.

The University stepped into GPU accelerated computing in 2016 by acquiring multiple computers with top of the line GPUs.  In 2017, the University started to look at a new platform that would allow for a differentiation of the kinds of GPUs provided to researchers.  Some of projects made possible by the high performance computing at Duke include a robotics experiment, photogrammetry, and deep learning and computer vision.  These projects, in their variety and scope, underscore the flexibility of these systems – flexibility in both configuration and deployment.  Further, the systems have been put together in a thoughtful, purposeful way using virtualization.  There is a malleability and scalability that virtualization provides.  (It is good to note that virtualization is not a compromise for performance.  It’s increasingly becoming the norm in supercomputing.)

The particular engine the institution uses for large-scale data modeling, follows a distributed computing path.  That is, it employs many servers and many cores. This engine is accessible for many researchers because it speaks many languages, including Java, Python, and Scala.  Plus, it understands SQL and is compatible with graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

4:55- 5:15 – East Campus Access Experiment, Joe Gonzalez (10 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion)

What it is:   A new contactless “tap” technology was installed in all the dorms on East Campus in 2016 that allows students to enter simply by tapping their DukeCard to the reader.  Residents in Giles also tested electronic, hotel-style locks on interior residential rooms.   Incoming freshman received new contactless DukeCards for use throughout East Campus that can also be swiped at all locations.

Why it’s relevant:   HDRL manages the facilities operation of all university student residences.  These responsibilities include all long-range planning, renovations and major projects, managing housekeeping and maintenance efforts, and ensuring that all residence options are safe, secure, comfortable and well maintained.  Joe will provide an overview of the project from a Housing, Dining, and Residence Life perspective and provide some insight into future projects relating to the integration of technology and residence life.

Presentation to be rescheduled.

5:15- 5:30 – Spring CSG Update, Mark McCahill, John Board (10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion)

What it is:  The Common Solutions Group works by inviting a small set of research universities to participate regularly in meetings and project work. These universities are the CSG members; they are characterized by strategic technical vision, strong leadership, and the ability and willingness to adopt common solutions on their campuses.

Why it’s relevant:  CSG meetings comprise leading technical and senior administrative staff from its members, and they are organized to encourage detailed, interactive discussions of strategic technical and policy issues affecting research-university IT across time. We would like to share our experiences from the recent Spring 2017 meetings.

Overview

Wireless networks are one of the most complicated systems on any university campus.  Work has gone into developing methods to monitor the user experience on wireless networks.

User Experience Monitoring Methods

  1. There is an application to automatically measure bandwidth and latency from the user’s browser to a site in order to get aggregate measure of latency.  This idea was particularly interesting to peer institutions.
  2. There is a device put in the field for continuous monitoring of the dropped connections.
  3. There is a recently created in-house application that maps both the network and the paths across the network.  This particular tool has proven invaluable already because of how accurately and efficiently it can map a network and pinpoint the location of a bottleneck, or the particular area that is causing a slow or dropped connection.

There is a peer institution doing interesting work with provisioning of switches.  The setting for a switch are configured before the switch goes out into the field.  Because each switch is pre-configured, maintenance and replacement can be done more efficiently.