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Week of September 30, 2013

New institute at U-M advances computational simulation

Computational simulation often is thought of as the third pillar of science — the others being theory and experimentation. A new institute at the University of Michigan will advance this newest addition to the researcher’s toolkit in fields including information technology and biomedical and material engineering.

The Michigan Institute for Computational Discovery and Engineering is a joint effort of the College of Engineering, the School of Information, and Advanced Research Computing in the Office of Research.

The institute will expand the strong scientific computational expertise that already exists in units across the university, and establish an interdisciplinary hub for it. Today, the institute includes dozens of faculty associates, a graduate certificate program, and a seminar series.

“Historically, science has been supported by experiments and theory, but increasingly researchers are using simulations created on high performance computers to discover new laws and design new devices. MICDE will be a focal point for the interdisciplinary use of these increasingly powerful computational tools,” said Eric Michielssen, the institute director and newly appointed associate vice president for advanced computing in the Office of Research. Michielssen is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Computational discovery and engineering involves the development and use of simulation-focused mathematical algorithms on high performance computers to support basic and applied research, product development, and forecasting.

“The advanced computing that the new institute will support is a crucial enabler in a wide range of research endeavors, including climate analysis and space science, interpretation of data to refine physical models and enhance insights in many disciplines, and the design of novel electronic circuits and sensor networks,” said David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “By bringing researchers from across the university together, we hope not only to find solutions, but also to define new scientific and engineering questions.”

The graduate certificate program is designed to help make that happen. It aims to prepare students to thrive in computationally intensive fields across a variety of disciplines in industry and academia. Graduate students from any academic unit are eligible to enroll, and must complete nine graduate credit hours in approved courses. A non-credit component such as an internship is also required.

“One of the key goals of the Office of Research is to nurture creativity and innovation in research at U-M,” said Stephen Forrest, vice president for research. “This institute will help inspire novel approaches to research and lead to new insights in an ever-widening array of fields across campus.”

“The School of Information delivers innovative, elegant and ethical solutions connecting people, information and technology,” said Thomas Finholt, acting dean of SI. “MICDE will accelerate these efforts through collaborative development of innovative computational approaches to interpret and analyze behavior at the scale of millions of users.”

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