UNLV receives grant to commission high-performance Graphical Processing Units

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The image depicts a cluster of GPUs in a server room. Photo by Sergei Starostin via Pexels.

The Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation has awarded UNLV a $432,269 grant for the purpose of purchasing and commissioning clusters of high-performance graphical processing units (GPUs). The grant will help to build and sustain multi-disciplinary research and education at the university. 

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure national defense.” The Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) is a department in the NSF with the main objective of supporting and coordinating the development, acquisition and provision of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure resources. 

UNLV’s application has been “deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria,” according to the National Science Foundation.

In addition to the OAC’s support, the grant is jointly supported by the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and the Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) directorate. 

The GPU is specialized for computing-intensive processes that are often utilized in scientific research, and the acquisition of these GPUs will prompt advances in UNLVs computing hardware, software, sensor networks and communications systems.

Applications of these GPUs will focus on research and will touch on many fields and disciplines, including biomedical research, intelligent transportation systems, automated vehicles, genomics, astronomy and physics.

The project will help advance national initiatives in big data, strategic computing, artificial intelligence and smart infrastructure systems.The grant aims to improve basic as well as applied research with core components including integrating, synthesizing, modeling and visualizing large volumes of data.

Outcomes of this grant are projected to develop impactful partnerships with public and private sector organizations and academia NSF.

Research related to automated vehicles and intelligent transportation will address comprehensive trajectory prediction challenges for the real-time applications of transportation networks and will help to accelerate the deployment of connected automated vehicles and infrastructure systems in Las Vegas.

As a minority-serving institution, the grant will support the expansion of UNLV’s efforts in creating diverse socio-economic and socio-demographic opportunities for undergraduate and graduate-level students. 

GPU usage in biomedicine will be used to help predict “individuals at risk for benzodiazepine and opioid overdose using interpretable deep learning techniques using publicly available pluripotency transcription factors datasets” while research in astronomy will focus on estimating “planet mass from protoplanetary disk images,” according to NSF.

Cluster GPUs have been implemented at other universities with significant success in overcoming computing limitations and advancing research objectives.

In 2010, Vanderbilt University received a similar $390,423 grant from the OAC for GPU clusters, which were implemented for science and engineering systems.

“Among the findings include a new nanostructured device (VSSL or variably-spaced superlattice) that will improve energy conversion efficiency for direct thermal to electrical power,” Greg Walker, principal investigator of the Vanderbilt grant, said. “This technology can reduce society’s dependence on non-renewable energy resources by producing additional power from otherwise wasted heat.” 

Walker also noted that, “In cognitive neuroscience, the results of the simulations performed at Vanderbilt have brought us closer to mimicking human brain activities. Understanding of these phenomena will advance the development of treatments for debilitating neural disease such as Alzheimer’s or depression.”

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