The Yale Center for Research Computing launched a new program this summer, called the CAREERS Cyberteam Program, that trains students at regional small and mid-sized institutions to become Research Computing Facilitators, or RCFs.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, this three-year initiative aims to prepare students for careers as RCFs, who offer support to researchers by analyzing how to match the right computing resources to the type of research being conducted. The program is being introduced to schools on the East Coast, with Yale leading the project.
“I think it has become widely recognized in scientific research that the ability to make use of advanced computing to do data analysis or simulation or other kinds of computations is essential for successful advanced scientific research,” said Andrew Sherman ’71 GRD ’75, principal investigator of the CAREERS initiative and senior computer science researcher at Yale. “One of the observations that we and many other observers have made is that the small and medium-sized schools … Schools like Southern Connecticut State University or Eastern Connecticut State or some of the small schools in various states across the country have a difficulty with accessing advanced computing facilities.”
The program’s main goal is to create opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds to be trained by experienced mentors and assist researchers in making use of advanced computing, according to Sherman. Researchers and students are paired based on the students’ computing skills and interest in the experts’ projects. The mentors will know about the advanced computing, but they may not know about the scientific research.
According to the CAREERS website, RCFs “make use of local, regional, and national high performance computing resources when computing needs exceed the capacity of the scientist’s desktop.” The program aims to support 72 computing-intensive projects with undergraduate or graduate student RCFs-in-training.
Currently, the program boasts three research projects. These internships offer trainee stipends ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 for 10-20 hours of work per week. They allow students to experientially learn hands-on skills in a career related to research computing and data science.
“Not only do we want to enable more in the way of advanced computing for these schools, but we also want to really bring diversity and inclusion to the group of professionals who are in this space known as the high-performance computing or advanced computing industry,” Sherman said. “We want very much to try to diversify the field and increase the representation of people of color, of women. And in order to do that, we need to find a way to get people like that involved in high-performance computing and to be trained in that area.”
The anchor schools, spanning six states, are the University of Rhode Island, Yale, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Delaware. An example of one of the projects students can get involved with is “Deep Learning for Biomedical Image Analysis” at Southern Connecticut State University. The program hopes to operate three to four projects in each state involved per year.
Once RCFs are trained at these larger institutions, the goal is for them to offer support to smaller schools in the region, which often are not as financially well-off. Therefore, it is harder for them to get the equipment or computing staff necessary for large-scale research computing, according to Sherman.
“The RCF program seems like an amazing opportunity to increase access to research computing resources,” said Ben Cifu ’24, a prospective computer science major. “I have been lucky to work with some research computing resources before, and hope to continue to do research with them at Yale, but I would have been completely lost without robust and ongoing guidance from other people in the lab. A program like this is necessary to help prepare labs across the country for future research as more and more projects begin to have computing elements.”
The program was initially launched in coordination with the Eastern Regional Network, a collaboration of a larger number of schools in this region.
Anjali Mangla | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Oct. 4: In the fourth paragraph, the article used to state that researchers and students were paired based on the students’ interest in the projects, but this has been corrected to reflect the fact that it is also based on the students’ computing skills. This paragraph also used to say that the mentors knew about the scientific research but not the computing. This sentence has been updated to correctly state that they know about the computing but may not understand the scientific research.
Correction, Oct. 4: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the program supports 42 computing-intensive projects, when the accurate number is 72. It has been updated to reflect this.