MSU to Study Cosmic Data as Part of $2.8M Grant, Receives Gift for Medical Facility in Grand Rapids

Researchers at East Lansing’s Michigan State University and nine other institutions have received $2.8 million from the National Science Foundation to further develop the concept for a Scalable Cyberinfrastructure Institute for Multi-Messenger Astrophysics, or SCIMMA, which uses observations of light, gravitational waves, and particles to understand extreme events in the universe.
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IceCube Neutrino Observatory
MSU researchers are developing devices that can detect gravitational waves, light, and particles to understand extreme events in the universe. Pictured is the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. // Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Researchers at East Lansing’s Michigan State University and nine other institutions have received $2.8 million from the National Science Foundation to further develop the concept for a Scalable Cyberinfrastructure Institute for Multi-Messenger Astrophysics, or SCIMMA, which uses observations of light, gravitational waves, and particles to understand extreme events in the universe.

For example, the observation of gravitational waves and light from the collision of two neutron stars in 2017 helped explain the origin of heavy elements, allowed an independent measurement of the expansion of the universe, and confirmed the association between neutron-star mergers and gamma-ray bursts.

“Multi-messenger astrophysics is a data-intensive science in its infancy that is already transforming our understanding of the universe,” says Patrick Brady, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is one of the collaborating organizations, and director of the Leonard E. Parker Center for Gravitation, Cosmology, and Astrophysics.

“The promise of multi-messenger astrophysics, however, can be realized only if sufficient cyberinfrastructure is available to rapidly handle, combine, and analyze the very large-scale distributed data from all types of astronomical measurements. The conceptualization phase of SCIMMA will balance rapid prototyping, novel algorithm development, and software sustainability to accelerate scientific discovery over the next decade and more.”

The goal of the project is to create computing systems to help scientists interpret observations. SCIMMA will facilitate global collaboration, going beyond the capabilities of any single institution or team.

“SCIMMA is bringing data scientists, computer scientists, astronomers, astro-particle physicists, and gravitational-wave physicists together to leverage NSF investments in large astronomical facilities and cyberinfrastructure,” says Amy Walton, program director of the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure.

These investments include the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, located in Washington and Louisiana, funded by the National Science Foundation, and operated by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located in Antarctica, funded by the National Science Foundation, and with the University of Wisconsin-Madison as the lead institution; the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, located in Chile, headquartered in Arizona, and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science; and multiple cosmic ray and neutrino observatories.

Project collaborators include Columbia University, Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing and the Department of Astronomy, Las Cumbres Observatory, Pennsylvania State University-University Park, University of California-Santa Barbara, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Texas Advanced Computing Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington.

The project’s two-year conceptualization phase began Sept. 1. Along with the project’s main goal, this phase will include education and training curriculum designed to enhance the STEM workforce.

In related news, MSU received a gift from Doug Meijer and the Meijer Foundation to help create a theranostics clinic. It will include a cyclotron-equipped radiopharmacy focusing on manufacturing diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals for both clinical and research use, and PET/MR scanner in a new building at the MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park. The building will be named for Meijer, a cancer survivor. The gift’s value was not disclosed.

“The Meijer Family has always been passionate about health care, and I am thankful to have the ability to carry that passion forward,” says Meijer. “This new medical innovation building will help save lives and improve the quality of life for many people through remarkable cancer-fighting technology. Patients will no longer have to travel overseas to receive needed treatment. I am living proof this technology works.”

A groundbreaking for the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Center is scheduled for Nov. 18.

“The initiative supported by this generous gift could have a tremendous impact on health care by helping detect disease sooner, offering more effective and less invasive treatments, eliminating unnecessary procedures, reducing side effects, and increasing time in remission,” says Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., president of MSU. “This innovative partnership between MSU, the western Michigan community, and business participants could ultimately improve patients’ quality of life and help cut health care costs. It is this type of global impact that MSU strives to accomplish, and with generous gifts like this, we can do just that.”

In June, Health Innovation Partners and MSU signed a long-term lease for the development of a medical innovation building and parking structure at the MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park. The first building at the site, the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center, opened in September 2017. The Doug Meijer Innovation Facility is expected to open in late 2021.

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