Ian Foster will serve a third term as director of the Computation Institute , continuing his mission to advance the study and application of computation across the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, University officials announced.
Since starting as director in 2006, Foster has overseen the expansion of Computation Institute research projects into high-impact areas such as climate change, medicine, genomics, global economics, the humanities, astronomy and particle physics. Under his supervision, Argonne and UChicago scientists affiliated with the Computation Institute continue to develop new computational tools to facilitate the growing wave of data-intensive research taking place in all areas of science.
“In the past six years under Ian’s leadership, the Computation Institute has achieved considerable success and visibility for the University and for Argonne across a number of diverse disciplines,” said Donald Levy, vice president for research and for national laboratories at UChicago, in announcing Foster’s reappointment. “I am confident that Ian will continue to identify new opportunities that have the potential for transformative impact through the use of advanced computation.”
New institute initiatives launched under Foster’s direction include computational economics, with a focus on environmental and energy economics; biomedical informatics and text mining — the analysis of text collections that has emerged as a common theme for researchers in the humanities, biomedicine, business and computer science. Computation Institute researchers have also developed new approaches and technologies in data-intensive computing, grid computing and cloud computing that enable scientists to form large-scale collaborations and make new discoveries.
“Computation is rapidly expanding the boundaries of human inquiry and knowledge, transforming the way research is conducted in virtually every discipline,” said Foster, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Computer Science and the Chan Soon-Shiong Scholar, and the associate director of Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science Division. “In this exciting new world, the Computation Institute is poised to be a global leader in creating innovative computational methods and organizing multi-disciplinary teams to apply these new tools to questions of critical importance.”
Ongoing projects demonstrate both the ambition and the scope of the Computation Institute mission. The Flash Center for Computational Science offers FLASH, a publicly available physics simulation code used for research on subjects ranging from high-energy density physics to thermonuclear supernovae. The Sylvio O. Conte Center, led by Andrey Rzhetsky, is combining text- and data-mining tools with genetics and clinical records databases to study the origins of psychiatric disorders. The mgRAST service provides a web tool for researchers studying the genomics of microbial species to analyze and visualize their data, and optionally share results with the metagenomics community.
Foster co-invented grid computing with Carl Kesselman, professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California, and Steve Tuecke, deputy director of the Computation Institute. Grid computing allows large-scale computing services to be delivered reliably and securely on demand, and enables the formation and operation of virtual organizations that link people and resources worldwide. Grid computing methods also have contributed to the emergence of cloud computing, which is redefining the information technology landscape for both industrial and academic research.
This and other work has garnered many honors for Foster, including the first High-Performance Parallel and Distributed Computing Achievement Award in 2012 by the Association for Computing Machinery. This year Foster also was recognized as Technologist of the Year by the Illinois Technology Association, and he earned an R&D 100 Award  for his work on Globus Online, the software-as-a-service for research data management. In 2011, he received the Tsutomu Kanai Award from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society for his accomplishments in grid computing.