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Signals Interview with Cyberinfrastructure Experts

By Martin England, Computing and Information Services
December 9, 2009

Signals recently sat down with UNH IT cyberinfrastructure (CI) experts Doug Green (Manager for Telecom Network Operations), Scott Valcourt (Director of Project Management & Consulting Services) and Steve Wengert (Telecom Project Manager) to discuss the project in detail. Cyberinfrastructure means the ability to share and pool resources, all in the spirit of not only research and education, but also in an increased quality of life.

[For more information, read our feature article on CI. ]

Signals: What does cyberinfrastructure mean to the University in terms of growth?

Steve Wengert: CI allows the University to collaborate at the highest level of data integration with other research and education institutions.  It will allow the University to extend its research and educational reach beyond New Hampshire or even New England to the whole US and internationally.

Doug Green: I agree. CI is about bringing people together. It will enable scientific and academic collaboration on a whole new scale. It will connect researchers, faculty, and students with colleagues and peers locally and across the globe. Correspondence and data sharing that today takes days will happen in real-time.

Signals: How will this help UNH move into the future and make UNH competitive with other research institutions?

Scott Valcourt: UNH’s investment in research tools, research data, expertise, and CI will allow UNH to compete for categories of research funding and investment that would otherwise be unavailable.  Then, UNH can attract those scientists, faculty, and researchers that want to live in the beauty of New Hampshire while still having access to the latest tools that are only available in other regions of the country.  As such, students wishing to focus mentorship under these world-class researchers will further be attracted to UNH and increase UNH’s competitiveness.

Signals: Where would UNH be without this project?

Doug Green: A big advantage of CI will be to support and enable teams of people across the region. Today there is often a lack of critical mass of people and equipment for significant research projects – pockets of talented individual researchers and students working alone, often not having sufficient funding to purchase needed equipment, instrumentation, software, labor, etc. Without CI we will have the status quo of orphaned work, less collaboration, limited resources, and less grant funding. With CI these talented individuals will be able to find like-minded people and like-focused projects, igniting enthusiasm, creating effective teams, sharing equipment and other resources, and more effectively attracting funding from granting agencies. Granting organizations tend to favor collaborative work.

Scott Valcourt: Without good CI, UNH runs the risk of falling behind in its ability to compete for the widest possible set of research funding. In addition, New Hampshire will suffer further as our state falls behind in utilizing those services that CI offers in other states.

Signals: What other potential benefits could stem from this work?

Steve Wengert: With the expansion of CI, this would allow the other University system campuses to obtain better data integration capabilities, as well as the potential growth and expansion of high speed broadband connectivity into other research and education campuses throughout the state including community colleges and other anchor institutions in the state.

Scott Valcourt: When CI removes the barrier of distance from technology solutions, we can begin to plan for services that are nearly impossible to accomplish today.  Single or shared e-mail systems and other technologies we view today as being in “the cloud” become something that USNH can band together to achieve because the CI components are no longer too slow to reach via the network.  Interactive classroom engagement becomes potentially possible from the living room of every NH home with a broadband connection, a television, and a computer with a camera and microphone. 

Doug Green: This is an exciting aspect of CI. Like WiFi, Facebook, and other enabling technologies, CI will generate new ideas and outcomes that we haven’t anticipated. Bringing people together is the key.

Doug Green is the technical architect for the USNH CI initiative. He is an Electrical Engineer who has designed systems and chips for the communication industry, and was Director of Research and Development for a major networking company. He came to USNH to develop a new Wide Area network for USNH, connecting USNH institutions to the Internet and to each other.  Doug has since become the architect and manager of networks and network security for UNH and USNH. Doug also chairs Techtel, a USNH technical collaborative.

Scott Valcourt has been involved in IT and communications research for 18 years at UNH.  In 2001, he was named by NetworkWorld magazine as one of “The 50 Most Powerful People in Networking” and was inducted into the DSL Forum Circle of Excellence in 2002 for distinguished contributions in the advancement of digital subscriber line interoperability as Manager of the DSL Consortium and Director of the UNH InterOperability Laboratory.

Steve Wengert has over 14 years of Operations and Project Management experience, with the past 9 years in the Telecommunications industry. His experience during this period included overseeing local and regional network projects as well as managing the network operations, engineering, customer support, and provisioning for the first registered CLEC in the state of New Hampshire.

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