College of ACES
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Illinois researchers awarded NSF grant to expand computational science education in food, energy, and water

Published October 5, 2016

URBANA, Ill. - Researchers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been awarded a 4-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address grand challenges at the nexus of food, energy, and water (FEW). Illinois collaborators include the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, (ACES), The College of Engineering, and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment.

Luis Rodriguez, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of ACES, is the principal investigator. The project, titled “The INFEWS-ER: a Virtual Resource Center Enabling Graduate Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems,” will provide a virtual environment for completing the Food, Energy, and Water (FEW) graduate student experience, thereby facilitating the generation of human capital who can address grand challenges at the nexus of food, energy, and water.

The INFEWS-ER will provide educational resources (ER) targeting innovations at the nexus of food, energy, and water by combining the fundamental sciences with the skills and knowledge of interdisciplinary problem solving and the latest computational modeling and analysis tools and data.

“Broadly, the INFEWS-ER aims to create a virtual resource center to foster the growth of students who are focusing on the nexus of food, energy, and water but may not be computationally strong, or vice-versa: computationally strong graduates who need a fundamental understanding of the disciplines of food, energy, and water,” says Rodriguez. “This ER aspect will ‘infuse’ these students with the skills and domain expertise necessary for helping to resolve these grand challenge problems.”

“NCSA and the U of I are a perfect fit for the INFEWS-ER project because it already hosts three key areas which are relevant to the award: the Earth and Environment theme, the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies, and the Midwest Big Data Hub,” adds Rodriguez.

“This is a wonderful program and a great opportunity,” says Prasanta Kalita, Associate Dean of Academic Programs for the College of ACES at Illinois. “This should help all of our INFEWS-ER partners engage with high quality students with very capable faculty with courses and research. An added benefit is INFEWS-ER will help us recruit quality students from near and far; it can help to expand our ‘human’ resources, who can then work in real life to solve grand challenges related to food, energy, and water."

Additional partners on the project include: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Iowa State University, University of California, Davis, North Carolina State University, West Texas A&M University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Michigan State University, South Dakota State University and eXtension.org.

The INFEWS-ER project abstract can be found here.

News writer:  Travis Benjamin Tate, XSEDE Communications Coordinator, NCSA