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University of Rochester’s new VISTA lab

Business Council member the University of Rochester recently previewed its new data visualization lab.  The new Visualization-Innovation-Science-Technology-Application (VISTA) lab was created as part of the University’s Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation (HSCCI).

The lab creates the visual experience necessary to allow researchers to understand and manipulate large and complex sets of scientific information, and one of the centerpieces of its commitment is to apply high performance computing and data science approaches to solve scientific problems.

The HSCCI project was identified as a priority project in 2012 by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC) and awarded $5 million from New York State.  It is part of a $30 million investment made by the University, New York State and Business Council member IBM in HSCCI. More than $50 million has been invested in recent years to expand the University’s high performance computational resources.

“We are deeply grateful for the critical investment provided by New York State for the HSCCI,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester.  “This support, along with the commitments made by IBM, will enable us to create the state-of-the-art computational infrastructure and research resources necessary to make Rochester a national leader in the field of high performance computing and data sciences.”

Only a handful of other U.S. institutions – such as Stanford University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory – have developed similar capabilities.

The visualization lab will be the key to not only helping scientists understand data, but it will also enable them to develop new analytic tools, collaborate with colleagues from other institutions, and train new generations of researchers and engineers in the field of data science.  As a user facility available to industry, the lab is also expected to strengthen and expand existing research collaborations with companies like IBM, Xerox, and Wegmans, as well as attract new private sector partners.

From a research perspective, the large scale display helps scientists overcome a major hurdle: understanding and extracting meaningful observations from the large and complex data sets that are easier to obtain than process.  The size, orientation, and high resolution capabilities of the display create an experience that allows scientists to look at and compare large sets of data or observe fine details in the context of larger structures.

The University will soon break ground on a new 50,000-square-foot building which will house the IDS and bear the Wegmans name in recognition of the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation’s recent $10 million gift.