Marshall receives $500,000 nationally competitive grant for cyberinfrastructure

A collaborative team at Marshall University won a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve campus-wide cyberinfrastructure in support of research.

Dr. Jan I. Fox, senior Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, chaired the grant application.

“Have you ever watched a video buffer? That’s called ‘latency’ and we don’t want that when you’re trying to move lot of data,” Fox said. “This grant is trying to make sure all the pathways to the researchers creates what’s called a frictionless network, which means high speed, high quality and no latency.”

This grant will be used to develop a stronger cyber network so that, for example, data collected from the electron microscope in the Byrd Biotechnology Center can be transferred seamlessly to the Visualization Center across campus.

Fox said this improved network will aid community-based research.

“We have obesity problem, high cancer rate, addiction issues and problems with the water,” Fox said. “This grant will support other grants through research that reaches out to community problems that really have an impact on the local area.”

“The problems of the world require multiple minds to fix them.””

— Jan Fox

In addition to Fox, the collaborative team included faculty from the Department of Biological Sciences, the Department of Microbiology and the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Fox said this kind of collaboration is necessary, as it is becoming harder and harder for researchers to work independently with a limited amount of information.

“The problems of the world require multiple minds to fix them. As far as granting agencies like the NSF goes, they want to focus on keeping researchers from being siloed,” Fox said. “This grant encourages collaboration information transparent to researchers across the University.”

Having received this grant, Marshall is now eligible for larger grants from the NSF that could potentially extend this cyber network to go between Marshall and other universities and facilities.

“The analogy is books. Years ago, everyone thought you had to have every book in the world on your shelf,” Fox said. “Well, think in those term today. We can get access to book all over the world without having them physically printed. The same goes for research, we could have access to all those resources, but they don’t physically have to be sitting in your office. It an be across campus, another institution, or even the world.”

“Having a cyberinfrastructure that extends to resources beyond our campus will be a selling point for other researcher to come to Marshall,” Fox said.

Fox also noted that this is a big win for the university, as other grants sometimes give smaller universities such as Marshall, a “handicap”. However, for this grant, there was no handicap and Marshall won on a level playing field, nationally.

Rob Engle can be contacted at [email protected].