March 25, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 92  

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CAMPUS LIFE

SHARC research goes swimmingly

By Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

Dr. Evil may have created sharks “with laser beams on their friggin’ heads,” but Western has a different kind of shark — one that’s useful and innovative.

The Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET) is a research community that brings together researchers from various fields in order to work together to expediate the process and enhance the quality of different research endavours. Its mandate is “to establish a world-leading, multi-university, interdisciplinary institute with an active academic-industry partnership, enabling forefront computational research in critical areas of science, engineering and business.”

Working with a budget in the millions of dollars, the consortium uses High Performance Computing technology (HPC) as HPC allows for superior computing power, allowing researchers to process large amounts of data quickly across a nationally-linked network.

SHARCNET was formally established in June 2001 and consists of 11 HPC sections distributed across various institutions in southern Ontario. Western leads the consortium, which also includes the universities of Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, Windsor, Brock, York, the Ontario Institute of Technology and Sheridan and Fanshawe Colleges.

“[The consortium] includes researchers from all faculties, including economics, science, social science and many others,” says Carmen Giacante, executive director of SHARCNET, adding there are approximately 100 researchers at Western alone.

“The work done [through SHARCNET] ties in with the work done at various research centres around the country, including [Western’s] Robarts [Research Institute],” he says. “It’s more than just the university — it’s a research community.”

Giacante explains that researchers at Western are currently working on various experiments, including research on house interest rates, old-age pension plans and stocks and bonds. “A good analogy for this type of research is auto design,” he says. “[People] used to build automobiles using clay and steam models, until we moved on to building prototypes with computers.”

The consortium is based on academic-industrial collaboration, and its current industry partners include Bell Canada, Platform Computing, Nortel Networks, Hewlett-Packard and the Optical Regional Advanced Network of Ontario (ORANO). ORANO provides the high-speed connection that links the research sites at Western, McMaster and Guelph.

—with files from www.sharcnet.ca

 

 

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