The new Penn Institute for Computational Science (PICS) celebrated its Kickoff Symposium on October 10, 2013 with talks in the Wu & Chen Auditorium in Levine Hall and a reception in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology. Chaired by Professor John L. Bassani from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, the symposium featured four leaders of the field of Computational Science from around the country plus seven outstanding researchers from the Penn community, representing Biology, Materials Science, Linguistics, Genetics, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, Radiology, and Bioengineering.
Provost Vincent Price and Vice Provost for Reseach Dawn Bonnell welcomed a full auditorium to the symposium, and Professor David Srolovitz, Director of PICS, provided an introduction to the institute.
In the morning, Efthimios Kaxiras of Harvard University presented "Simulations of real complex systems: computational science comes of age." The Courant Institute's Michael Shelley presented "Swimming, sliding, centering: Simulating active microscopic flows." The afternoon included Vijay Pande of Stanford University and his talk, "Folding[@]home: Using the world's idle computer time to fight Alzheimer's Disease and Cancer. Elizabeth Holm of Carnegie Mellon University ended the symposium with her presentation, "Unraveling rare events in the microstructural network: Abnormal grain growth."
Talks from Penn faculty rounded out the symposium. Sarah Tishkoff of the Departments of Genetics and Biology, Vivek Shenoy of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Mark Liberman of the Department of Linguistics, Celia Reina of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, Ravi Radhakrishnan of the Department of Bioengineering, Andrew Rappe of the Department of Chemistry, and Jeremy Magland of the Department of Radiology all presented their research.
The formation of the Penn Institute for Computational Science derives from the observation that computing is an important tool for research in essentially every field of study today; from the physical and biological sciences to every part of engineering to linguistics to medicine to psychology. In many disciplines, computation-based research already represents a major subfield, while in others it is in its infancy. It represents a series of approaches that augment other types of tools - experiments, analysis, etc. There are similarities in approaches between computational research in disparate academic disciplines. Not only are computational tools advancing rapidly but so too is computational hardware. This rapidly changing landscape, while presenting immense opportunities, makes it a challenge for researchers to stay at the state-of-the-art. This is natural since in most areas, computation is not the theme of the field but a tool, and computational researchers seldomly have a formal foundation in computer science. The importance of computation in research is now widely recognized, and research funding in this area is growing at a time when overall research funding is slowing.
PICS's goal is to help computational science at Penn blossom, as it continues to expand into all aspects of academic inquiry.