Computing Classroom in Flawn Academic Center Brings Advanced Scientific Computation and Statistics to Students

Feb. 24, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — A new computing classroom and learning laboratory in The University of Texas at Austin's Flawn Academic Center is changing the way that statistics and scientific computing are taught at the university.

The Statistics and Scientific Computation Lab is a collaboration between the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation (SCC) in the College of Natural Sciences and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). Both divisions recognized the need for a space on the main campus where instructors could teach topics with lecture and lab components integrated into an innovative teaching environment.

"The new lab embodies the increasing importance that statistics and scientific computation play in our lives," said Sheldon Ekland-Olson, director of the SSC. "This innovative facility is a marvelous testimony to interdisciplinary cooperation across campus and is a moment to celebrate. The University of Texas at Austin is once again providing students with access to cutting-edge educational resources."

The lab is outfitted with 32 Dell workstations with the latest processors and video capabilities. There are plans to use the space as a distance learning classroom for all 15 institutions that compose the University of Texas System.

"The new lab enables the tremendous expertise of UT Austin faculty, and researchers at TACC, SSC and other departments, to benefit UT Austin students across colleges, and eventually to share this expertise with students at other institutions in real time," said TACC Director Jay Boisseau. "The capabilities and flexibility of this lab enable us to teach in the most effective mixed modes of lecture and practice for a wide variety of topics in scientific computing."

The lab puts the right tools in the hands of students and readies them for graduate-level research.

Students are using Linux, a leading computer operating system that runs the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, on the workstations in the lab. These workstations interact with a TACC supercomputer, providing students with practical experience in advanced computing technologies.

"Every student has a laptop or desktop, but they don't have a high-performance computing (HPC) environment, and that's what we're emulating on these workstations," said John Lockman, research associate at TACC. "Getting students to use the tools we use every day in HPC is a great step forward."

For more information, contact: Lee Clippard, College of Natural Sciences, 512-232-0675;  Faith Singer, Texas Advanced Computing Center, 512-232-5771.