NSF awards nearly $1 million for system to build cyber infrastructure that expands Maine’s access to new research and learning opportunities

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ORONO – The National Science Foundation awarded nearly $1 million to the University of Maine System to build new cyber infrastructure that will expand the state’s access to scientific data, expertise and learning opportunities throughout New England and beyond.

The equipment, funded by the $976,496 NSF award, will provide high-speed, 400 gigabits per second (Gbps) network connections between the system’s supercomputing cluster at its flagship institution, the University of Maine, and two leading research and educational institutions in New England: the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center and the Northern Crossroads Gigabit Point of Presence, the region’s primary link to the Internet2.

“Digital connectivity is critical to the success of Maine schools and students in the 21st century — it opens up a whole new world of resources and learning,” said U.S. Reapers Susan Collins and Angus King. “The University of Maine Systems’ You Can Get There from Here network will create important new connections to expand scholarly collaboration across New England and improve educational opportunities in our state. This is a perfect example of how modern technologies like broadband connections can bring more opportunities to rural, underserved areas and move our country into the future.”

Utilization of these facilities, both designed to support research and education in New England, will increase the computational capacity of the system’s network infrastructure by more than tenfold. As a result, the new equipment will improve opportunities for Maine researchers, particularly those at small, underfunded institutions, to share data and resources and collaborate with other experts worldwide. Connection to these hubs will also allow UMS to connect with additional research partners in northern New England in the future by offering intermediate add-and-drop support in Keene, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine.

“Research and innovation rely on collaboration and networking, and that can sometimes be challenging in our rural and remote locations,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, UMS vice chancellor for research and innovation and president of the University of Maine. “I would like to thank Senators Collins and King for their continued support of investments in science and technology. With this award from the National Science Foundation, the University of Maine System will connect its state-of-the-art computing resources and world-class researchers with peers in the Northeast and the nation, as well as with students in our state’s PK-12 and post-secondary schools. Together we can solve problems and create new knowledge and opportunities for Maine and beyond. This project demonstrates the tremendous power and potential of our R1 flagship research university to strengthen our entire university system and build Maine’s capacity and global competitiveness.”

Bruce Segee, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMaine; will lead the project and work with Jeff Letourneau, general manager of NetworkMaine, a unit of UMS that provides Internet and related services to various stakeholders across the state; and Garret Peirce, the system’s network architect.

“Virtually all research in the 21st century uses computers and high-speed networks. Maine has traditionally been at a huge disadvantage,” says Segee. “This grant will allow Maine researchers to collaborate meaningfully with the rest of the world, both by making resources outside of Maine more accessible and by making data and resources in Maine more accessible to the rest of the world.”

Many schools across the state are using NetworkMaine’s high-speed Internet, which means they will benefit from UMS cyber infrastructure upgrades. In particular, the NSF-funded equipment could expand the educational offering for K-12 students by connecting them with world-class researchers who are willing to share their work and experiences.

“Maine’s K-12 schools and public libraries have been national leaders in digital learning for decades. This 10x increase in out-of-state capacity will allow us to continue to support their innovation as they provide learning opportunities to the entire Maine population, regardless of location or income,” says Letourneau.

UMS not only seeks to improve Maine researchers’ access to resources through cyber infrastructure upgrades, but also through collaborations with various organizations including the Northeast Cyberteam, the Ecosystem for Research Networking, the Northeast Research and Education Network, the Open Storage Network and the Open Science Network.

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