From Astrophysics to the Ancient World: Research Tech in Science, Art, and the Humanities

November 17, 2021
By Keith Allison, Claire Gu, and the NYU Research Technology Team

The past year has been a strange one, to say the least, from the rapid transition to remote teaching, learning, and work in 2020 to the return to NYU in 2021. Throughout the changes in the academic landscape, NYU continued to pursue important research and innovations. NYU Research Technology (RT), composed of High Performance Computing (HPC), LaGuardia Studio (LGS), Data Services, and Digital Library Technology Services (DLTS) worked with partners across NYU to achieve a number of significant milestones. Below is just a sampling of some of the exciting developments in the world of research technology.


Research Technology in the Fight against COVID-19

Astrophysics, HPC, and the NYU Greene Cluster

In exploring the puzzle of the ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs), one of the rarest and most enigmatic of particles in the universe, three theorists at New York University, Chen Ding, Noémie Globus, and Glennys R. Farrar, have recently provided an explanation for their origin that modern astrophysics experts see as highly convincing. Their paper, “The Imprint of Large Scale Structure on the Ultra-High-Energy Cosmic Ray Sky,” reveals that the accelerators for ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays could be far more common than we’ve observed, through a cosmic map of the distribution and movement patterns of the ultra powerful cosmic rays when they pass through magnetic fields in the universe. With key computing facility support from NYU's high performance computing (HPC) team led by Shenglong Wang, including the use of the Greene HPC cluster, the three researchers have made a fantastic step towards clarifying the origin and potentially more efficient observations of the mysterious UHECRs.

Building a Secure Research Data Environment

In response to the needs of many NYU researchers for a secure way to store and analyze sensitive research data requiring additional layers of security, NYU High Performance Computing collaborated with the Global Office of Information Security (GOIS) and the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) to pilot Secure Research Data Environments (SRDEs). SRDEs offer computing and data storage capabilities that enable NYU scholars and their collaborators to safely upload, store, analyze, transfer, and internally share data that are classified as moderate or high risk based on the NYU Electronic Data and System Risk Classification Policy. This essential new level of security will enable researchers to confidently expand their ability to more seamlessly interact with NYU's research technology infrastructure, including supercomputer clusters. The service is currently in the process of transitioning from pilot to production.

Cloud Computing for High Performance Computing Tasks

The sheer size of the data often involved with research projects has traditionally precluded researchers from leveraging cloud-based computing power and storage. HPC Cloud, currently in the process of transitioning from pilot to production, takes advantage of advancements in network and cloud infrastructure speed and capacity to enable researchers with very large data sets to more seamlessly and reliably employ cloud resources available via the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). 

Launch and Expansion of the High Speed Research Network

The High Speed Research Network (HSRN) is a specialty low-latency high-bandwidth computer network for use by NYU researchers. It connects research computers in labs and offices up to 200 times faster than NYU-NET. With the HSRN, researchers can create and run new types of experiments and analysis, and significantly speed up existing research processes that rely on large data sets. It also enables researchers to compete for larger, and increasingly interdisciplinary research grants that require access to powerful computational and network resources. The HSRN was initially made available at four locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is now being expanded to three new locations.

3D printed arms in progress

Printing a new set of arms for a face and bilateral arm transplant operation at NYU Langone.

3D Scanning and Printing for Research, Art, and the Humanities

In early 2020, while much of the world was going into lockdown, LaGuardia Studio participated in a second groundbreaking transplant operation with NYU Langone, creating a lifelike face mask and arms for the transplant donor. LGS also worked with anthropologist Scott Williams to scan and print replicas of ancient fossils that helped anthropology researchers continue their work during the pandemic. The Studio is currently engaged in a number of projects, including partnerships with the Center for Neural Science and Center for Genomics and Systems Biology.

A New 3D Printer and Scanning System at LaGuardia Studio

LGS recently expanded its equipment to include a new 3D printer and new 3D scanning system. The HP Jet Fusion 580 3D printer is a full-color printer that can make high-density, engineering-grade production parts and provide an opportunity for economical color and part prototyping, in addition to end-use production. The HP 580 can create dense, durable, and strong parts, and the PA12 material it uses has many biocompatible certifications and is compliant with autoclave sterilization, making it a great choice for biomedical applications.

The Studio also added an Artec Leo 3D scanner, a high-resolution, wireless, handheld scanner with improved accuracy and color texture map digitization results. Because the Leo scanner is wireless and portable, it allows for greater freedom of movement and opens up more possibilities for the successful digitization of larger scale objects.

Digital Archiving Upgrades and Grants

DLTS preservation storage was migrated to an expanded and improved storage system. Over 2 petabytes of data—some 71,430,680 digital library files—were migrated to the new system. DLTS also received a $502,400 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support sustainability planning for services to preserve new forms of digital scholarship.

Converting and Archiving Hemispheric Institute Video

DLTS completed a lengthy project converting 929 hours of streaming video content from the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library. The original collection, archiving years of artistic performances froma round the world, was designed with Flash-formatted videos, which were no longer supported in 2021. DLTS implemented a new method for delivering the content, via dynamic web pages that pull data from NYU Libraries' Bobcat Primo database.

illustration of four men in ancient Egyptian garb

An image from "A history of Egypt from the earliest times to the Persian conquest" by James Henry Breasted, part of the Ancient World Digital Library.

A New Home for the Ancient World

The Ancient World Digital Library (AWDL), a collaboration between the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) and DLTS, identifies, collects, curates, and provides access to materials relevant to the study of the ancient world. The DLTS team moved over 200 digitized works into a new, more robust storage system. As part of this effort, the team also revised and modernized the digital scans of a number of books, making them consistent with standard digital archiving practices and easier to catalog, find, and use.

Preserving Dynamic Academic Web Content

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation authorized a grant to NYU of $520,503 to develop "a decentralized, federated framework for institutional archiving of research software and other open scholarly materials." Led by Vicky Rampin, Research Data Management and Reproducibility Librarian at Data Services, "Collaborative Software Archiving for Institutions (CoSAI)," addresses the need to provide machine-repeatable, human-understandable workflows for preserving web-based scholarship and scholarly code while forefronting education, outreach, and community building. Rampin’s co-principal investigator is Martin Klein, a research scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Rampin was also the recipient, with co-principal Katy Boss of NYU Libraries, of a grant to further develop the tool ReproZip-Web to archive at-risk journalistic web content. The project, "Preserving the Dynamic Web," received a grant of $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

K-12 STEM Research Outreach at Data Services

Data Services trained two high school students (one from Brooklyn Technical High School and one from Ramaz High School) working under Dr. Debra Laefer, who received a 2021 GIS Spatial Application Award—a recognition of impressive and innovative accomplishments across NY state for "Mapping NYC COVID-19 community transmission via hospital workers."

But Wait! There's More!

Each of these accomplishments represents what NYU Research Technology counts as their most important goal: contributing to NYU's overall mission of advancing research and education that has a positive impact on the University and the world. However, there was a lot more going on than what's mentioned above. Not being able to cover it all in a single article is a fantastic problem to have. 2022 seems like that welcome problem is going to continue. There are some tremendous projects on the horizon, or already underway, and it's going to be exciting to bring them to the NYU community.

More 2020/2021 Research Technology Articles in the Download