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Appalachian Receives $650,000 to Enhance Computer Science Education

BOONE–A $650,000 grant awarded to Appalachian State University will provide research opportunities for undergraduate computer science students in the state.

The two-year grant is part of a $2.3 million project, funded by the Office of the President of the University of North Carolina, to jumpstart the development of advanced research and education applications in high performance computing, information systems, and computational and computer science. Also receiving funding are UNC Asheville, UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington

Appalachian will use its portion of the grant to establish an eight-school consortium that will work to enhance computer science and promote computational science and high performance computing at Appalachian, Western Carolina University, UNC Greensboro, NC A&T, UNC Pembroke, Elon University, High Point University and Lenoir-Rhyne College.

Barry Kurtz and Rhaman Tashakkori from Appalachian’s Department Computer Science will manage the grant. Kurtz is the Lowe’s Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Appalachian.

Working with schools in the partnership, Kurtz and other computer science faculty will focus on educating undergraduates to utilize a computer grid used to solve large computational problems. The faculty also will develop and offer courses via the N.C. Research and Education Network (NCREN), which is an internal data and video network between the universities. They also will develop a senior research seminar to be shared via NCREN and offer a summer workshop for faculty at non-consortium schools.

Access to these courses will better prepare students considering graduate school or pursuing careers in “information technology where use of computers is essential to make an organization run successfully,” Kurtz said.

Students majoring in computer science at these universities currently have limited access to courses in high performance computing. By sharing faculty expertise, equipment and courses, this consortium can create an environment to teach students about high performance computing. For example, Tashakkori is an expert in medical image processing. This fall, he will teach a course in digital image processing that can be taken by students around the sate via NCREN, event at schools that do not have a faculty member with expertise in the area relating to medical science and computer science.

Each of the eight partners have faculty with different specialties. Appalachian and UNC Greensboro have faculty experts in digital image processing, Western Carolina University has experts in grid computing and UNC Pembroke and NNC A&T has experts in bioinformatics computing, the use of computers to store and analyze biological data.

” Together, we can give our students the same sort of exposure as at the research institutions,” Kurtz said. “Alone we couldn’t do this, but by pooling our resources, we can.”