Posted: 8/16/17

TAMIU Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Boost Research, Education in Climate Studies


TAMIU is an emerging research institution.  

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant of $74,104 to Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) to help support the development of a high-performance cluster (HPC) to support research and educational outreach in the area of climate change. Project co-investigators are Dr. Ken Tobin, professor of geology, and Dr. Kameron Jorgensen, assistant professor of chemistry.

“The grant includes money to support two servers with a Linux and Windows-based operating system. Included with the proposed servers is 1TB of Raw Storage, 128 GB High Performance RDIMM Memory and 2 Xeon E5-2680 v3 2.5 GHz processors for a total of 24 cores in each server,” explained Dr. Tobin, project principal investigator.

He added that NSF is considered the gold standard in terms of funding sources within the STEM fields. The hardware acquired with this grant will support the development of the first full high performance computational cluster at TAMIU.

Dr. John Kilburn, TAMIU associate vice president for Sponsored Projects and Research, said the gift truly underscores the University’s mission as an emerging research institution.

“We are excited to be the beneficiaries of this new hardware and appreciate the highly competitive nature of NSF funding. In recent years, we have landed a number of NSF equipment awards that has allowed us to greatly enhance our research infrastructure on campus. This funding will greatly boost the computational capabilities on campus supporting research, educational, and outreach activities,” Dr. Kilburn said. 

According to Dr. Jorgensen, the equipment will have a powerful impact on her research.

“My research area of computational chemistry typically requires the investigations of tens to hundreds of molecules using several computational methods for comparison, just to yield a single publication. I plan to extend my atmospheric studies to larger molecules, and atmospheric interaction mechanisms, i.e., increasing the number of non-hydrogen atoms in my calculations, with my new server speeding the time required to complete theoretical calculations dramatically,” said Jorgensen.

As a result, using the newly acquired HPC will help to noticeably increase research and advanced teaching within the area of chemistry. Jorgensen also plans to use the server to support advanced chemistry coursework in computational chemistry.

“The HPC will be utilized in workshops allowing high school students to have the ability to run molecular simulations and analyze data. Thus, this resource will increase knowledge and promote the STEM field to students in Laredo and other nearby areas in South Texas,” Jorgensen added.

Tobin, director of the Center for Earth and Environmental Studies (CEES), has plans for his new server inside and outside the classroom. As lead investigator of the NASA-funded SMERGE project, a root zone soil moisture product for the continental United States under development, the server will speed up work on that project.

“Root zone soil moisture is a critical climate variable and is a fundamental limiting factor on agricultural productivity. To validate SMERGE watershed modeling will be critical. Currently, plans involve modeling the entire Missouri River basin. To run a model of such a massive basin in a desktop environment would take years. The new HPC will allow me to complete modeling in a small fraction of that time,” Tobin said.

Tobin also plans to use the HPC to support his courses in atmospheric science and geographic information systems. The impact of the grant will also be felt beyond the Laredo area.

Tobin explained, “CEES plan to share the HPC with RCN-CE3SAR consortium members on a time-sharing basis. Therefore, this project will not only impact research and teaching in Laredo but across the whole of South Texas.”

TAMIU is a member of the South Texas-based research coordination network RCN-CE3SAR, which is funded by NSF. Members in the network include five HSIs that span three of the major university systems in Texas (Texas A&M Kingsville, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas A&M San Antonio, Texas State University, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). 

For more on this NSF funded project, contact Tobin at 956.326.2417, or visit offices in the TAMIU Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center and Planetarium, room 346.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

For more information about the Center for Earth and Environmental Studies, visit http://www.tamiu.edu/cees

For additional University information, visit tamiu.edu, or follow the University’s social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Dr. Kameron Jorgensen, assistant professor of Chemistry
Dr. Kameron Jorgensen, assistant professor of Chemistry


Dr. Kenneth Tobin, professor of Geology
Dr. Kenneth Tobin, professor of Geology