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SGCI Summer Programs: SEAGrid Workshop

A core mission of the SGCI Workforce Development team is to provide educational opportunities for the next generation of gateway developers. One way that the team is achieving this goal is by offering a variety of summer programs and internships to empower budding researchers to easily use scientific applications deployed across a wide range of supercomputers, campus clusters, and computing clouds.

One of the programs offered this year was the Science and Engineering Applications Grid (SEAGrid) Workshop which took place May 9 - May 11, 2017, at Jackson State University (JSU). The workshop included an opportunity for participants to move their own research projects onto the SEAGrid gateway, which features both a powerful desktop client and go-anywhere Web application. 

JSU administrators offered a warm welcome to participants and Dr. Linda Hayden, SGCI Workforce Development lead, kicked off the workshop with an overview of SGCI and all of the SGCI Young Professionals Network opportunities available to students. Participants also learned about the Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI) from Dr. Teresa Head-Gordon who is on MolSSI’s Steering Committee and Faculty Staff Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Robert Cave, NSF Program Director for the Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Program, joined via video conference to familiarize the student participants with the CCI Program and its mission to support research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. Dr. Cave expressed NSF’s vision for computational chemistry and discussed with students the next step options for their careers.

The remainder of the workshop was focused on learning about SEAGridApache Airavata, and Anions, and was led by Sudhakar Pamidighantam, SGCI Consultant and Senior Scientist, Science Gateways Group, Research Technologies at Indiana University, Suresh Marru, SGCI Technology Consultant and Principal Software Architect, Science Gateways Group, Research Technologies at Indiana University, Yassin Jeilani, Chemistry and Biochemistry Faculty, Spelman College, and Vince Ortiz, Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor, Auburn University.

We asked the student participants for their thoughts and feedback at the conclusion of the workshop, and we heard a great deal about what they learned during the three days.

Adonay Sissay, who is pursuing a Ph.D.in computational physical chemistry at Louisiana State University, had this to say about the experience:

“The workshop opened my eyes to the computational resources that are out there and available to researchers and teachers. I’m definitely going to look into how to utilize these resources in my career.”

Chris Copeland, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Jackson State University, also found the exposure to available resources eye-opening:

“During the three-day workshop, I was able to learn more about the growing possibilities of grid computing and how the development of SEAGrid can be routinely applied to computational chemistry. I was very impressed with the overall state of the various pieces of software that have been designed as a part of the SEAGrid online portal and the desktop client. Overall, I like the ability to have a framework in which the design and organization of a project can take place all in one location; the current fragmented approaches to research need these features.”

Students were offered the ability to learn through hands-on experience and, therefore, many attendees felt that they walked away from the workshop with the tools they need to further their own research and experiments. Georgio Proctor, who’s pursuing a master’s degree in radiochemistry at Jackson State University, had this to say:

“I really enjoyed the hands-on section of the workshop. The workshop will help me run computational experiments with my research and also allow me the opportunity to help my colleagues out with their research. I can now log on to SEAGrid and create projects which I couldn’t do before, and I also learned new terminology and processes that are essential for using the program.”

Karun Kumar Ra, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Houston, also felt that he left the workshop with new tools to use:

“I  learned about new techniques and visualization software used for molecular dynamics in biology simulations that I hope I can incorporate into my own work. By attending this workshop,  I think I learned the most  about gateway tools and how effectively they can be used to lower the barrier for using simulations and computational chemistry tools.”

The impact and benefits that this type of educational experience offers students and future science gateway developers is real, and Hector H. Corzo, Ph.D. candidate in theoretical and computational chemistry at Auburn University, recognizes the importance of such exposure:

“In general, I believe that these types of workshops and the SGCI and MoISSI projects have an important impact on the development and advancement of scientific knowledge. These advances will not only lead to the understanding of chemical systems at the molecular level but also in the development of new technologies while helping the formation and professional development of the next generation of scientists. By allowing the networking and participation of scientists with overlapped research goals, this event provided means for future collaboration between the participants.”

Tavina Offutt, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in computational chemistry at the University of California, San Diego, also felt that she walked away from the workshop with tangible benefits while also noting that the workshop attracted a diverse group of students:  

“As a result of attending the conference, I was able to engage in informal dialogue about various opportunities provided through the SGCI in both conducting my research and future employment opportunities proceeding my graduate school completion. I mostly enjoyed learning how to use SEAGrid, and being able to work with the developer, Sudhakar Pamidighantam, who was more than willing to teach and assist with troubleshooting issues. I also enjoyed hearing about the research projects of my colleagues as the areas of expertise within computational chemistry were very diverse. Lastly, my absolute favorite part of the workshop was the diversity of the student, faculty, and staff participants. It was inspiring and motivating to be in a scientific environment that was both racially and ethnically diverse.”

Students continue to be engaged in the other programs offered by SGCI this summer, including 8-week internships taking place at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), Indiana University (IU), and Purdue University for students working on gateway projects, and a 4-week program focused on gateway development for undergraduate students taking place at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU). We’ll be sure to report back with another update when the remainder of summer programs conclude.

If you're a student who might be interested in applying for a summer program with SGCI in 2018, or if you'd like to engage with the Young Professionals Network in general, please check out our Student-Focused Programs page to learn more and to connect. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to receive monthly newsletters which will keep you up-to-date about upcoming opportunities.