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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 08 

Computer science faculty earn IBM Faculty Awards

August 28, 2007

Dimitrios Nikolopoulos and Wu-Chun Feng
Dimitrios Nikolopoulos and Wu-Chun Feng

Three faculty members in Virginia Tech's Department of Computer Science, Kirk Cameron, Wu-Chun Feng, and Dimitrios Nikolopoulos, have received IBM Faculty Awards.

According to IBM, these awards are “internationally competitive,” and candidates are required to have an outstanding reputation for contributions in their field.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to formalize our ongoing relationship with IBM,” Cameron said. “This award will enable us to exploit the high-performance characteristics of IBM hardware to answer important open questions in plant phylogeny. In collaboration with postdoctoral fellow Xizhou Feng, Cameron plans to use the funds to collaborate with IBM researchers Carlos Sosa and Brian Smith.

“The computational power of the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer and the Cell Broadband Engine will enable faster, more accurate identification of relationships between organisms,” Cameron said. “For example, these types of techniques can be used to quickly identify the ancestry of viruses like SARS, where timely isolation of a virus’ origin can help defend it and ultimately save lives.”

“I'm honored to have received an IBM Faculty Award,” said Feng. “I hope to create a self-adapting computing environment that will enable rural regions and secondary schools to access customizable computing resources anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. Hopefully, this will contribute to the notion that computer science is not just about 'programming' but more about problem solving, like the computer science that went into Google, Wii, or iPhone.”

According to Feng, it is alarming that probable majors in computer science have dropped by 70 percent in the United States from 2000 to 2005, even though the job openings in science and engineering are expected to soar in the years to come. “We need to reshape the misconceptions of CS and project it as a problem-solving discipline, one that will open the doors to tomorrow.”

Nikolopoulos will use the IBM Faculty Award to address problems that disrupt software productivity on emerging computing platforms.

“There is a looming crisis in software productivity due to the ubiquitous use of multi-core processors in computer systems,” said Nikolopoulos. “Software can no longer be accelerated by new microprocessors, unless it is restructured and decomposed to run efficiently on multiple cores. We are exploring tools that get software to run efficiently on multiple cores with minimum human involvement. Our collaboration with IBM will help us deploy these tools on cutting-edge IBM hardware, including the Cell Broadband Engine, and put our tools to test with commercial-strength network security software.”

The IBM Faculty Awards is a competitive worldwide program intended to foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and service organizations; and promote courseware and curriculum innovation to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM.