ADSC in 2010: A Year of Growth
In 2010, Singapore’s Advanced Digital Sciences Center (ADSC) followed its 2009 phase of initial setup by blossoming into a fully functioning, vibrant, and active research center.
A Dynamic Research and Educational Collaboration
University of Illinois faculty members participating in ADSC made over thirty trips to Singapore in 2010 in order to work on research projects, explore new collaborative opportunities, and teach short courses. ADSC Director Marianne Winslett credits ADSC’s rapid growth to the strong faculty engagement reflected by such frequent visits, explaining that “ADSC has been successful so far because Illinois faculty have recognized the opportunities that exist in Singapore and are spending considerable efforts to create research projects here.”
ADSC is now actively fulfilling its educational mission in Singapore. During 2010, Illinois faculty and staff presented three major courses to the Singaporean research community:
- In January, Professors Kevin Chang and Jiawei Han led a course on Information Integration. Co-organized by ADSC and the Institute for Infocomm Research, the course focused on the basics of data mining as well as large-scale mining of the Web.
- In June, University of Illinois faculty members, along with other leading researchers from industry and academia, presented a week-long course and symposium on high-performance computing. Professors Marc Snir, William Gropp, Josep Torrellas, and Laxmikant Kale presented key sections of the course.
- In August, in conjunction with the Institute for High Performance Computing in Singapore, ADSC presented the Parallel@Illinois course on Multi-Core Processing, which had originally been presented a month earlier on the University of Illinois campus. The August presentation to A*STAR researchers was conducted in a multimedia format and led by Danny Dig, a researcher at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois. Several of the lectures were presented in the form of videos recorded during the original Illinois course, with faculty members videoconferencing in from Illinois for question and answer sessions.
ADSC capped off 2010 by hosting a major technical conference entitled “Information Technology for Smart Grid Systems” in December. Over eighty participants from academia and industry attended this inaugural smart grid event for ADSC. Dean Ilesanmi Adesida of the Illinois College of Engineering gave the opening welcome; attendees included Andreas Cangellaris, who is the Head of the Illinois Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Ravi Iyer, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research at Illinois. Several other Illinois faculty made presentations during the conference’s panel sessions.
ADSC researchers and interns, including ADSC Director Marianne Winslett (center), Prof. Nikita Borisov (far left), and Prof. Narendra Ahuja (front left), attend the ADSC holiday dinner in Singapore on December 9, 2010.
New Faces at ADSC in 2010
In 2010, ADSC hired over twenty new research scientists, postdocs, and administrative staff, who joined the existing faculty and staff in launching the nine major research projects now underway.
ADSC proved to be very successful in attracting top-rate recent Ph.D. recipients to serve as on-the-ground project leads in Singapore. For instance, Bernard Ghanem, who recently received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, stated that he chose to start his postgraduate career at ADSC because it offered him “the chance to lead my own research group in developing top-of-the-line, cutting-edge techniques for solving real-world problems.” He noted that ADSC’s goal isn’t merely to generate publications, but truly “to think harder and more creatively in order to come up with ways that research can be used to impact society and the world.”
Kyle Rupnow, a newly minted ADSC Research Scientist and a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, added that ADSC stood out because it offers “the opportunity to collaborate within the academic community, and with other prominent research labs and industry in Singapore.” He said he expected that the unique ADSC environment would allow him “to perform a significant amount of high-quality research” in collaboration with “well-known researchers both from the University of Illinois and Singapore.”
Ghanem added that ADSC has the dynamic feel of a start-up company, despite being rooted in the established “research superpower” of the University of Illinois. “Since we haven’t reached critical mass yet and are still in the phase of honing in on the major projects we want to be working on for the next several years, creativity from the staff, researchers, students, and interns is a must,” he explained. “That’s what drives me personally: the chance to express my creativity. Some people do it with paint, music, or dance. I do it with a computer, software, and pretty cool mathematics.”
The Advanced Digital Sciences Center celebrated its opening in February 2009 and spent its first months laying the foundations of its complex international programs. Its offices and labs in Fusionopolis, a futuristic center for research and development located near the National University of Singapore and the Biopolis complex on the western side of the island of Singapore, soon teemed with activity.
ADSC started with a $50 million grant given by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) to the University of Illinois so that Illinois could establish a premier research institution for Illinois faculty in Singapore. In addition to its role as a center for innovative research, ADSC was designed to leverage Illinois expertise in engineering and computer science to bring state-of-the-art educational programs to Singapore. ADSC also serves as a conduit for commercialization of research done by ADSC-affiliated faculty and for University of Illinois faculty in general.
ADSC’s core funding is focused on two areas of research: interactive digital media and power grid (or “smart grid”) information technology. The interactive digital media research is oriented towards computer vision, face and object recognition, and new forms of web information retrieval. The smart grid research is focused on wireless networks and economic incentive systems for smart-meter-based pricing. Future research will look at hardware and software infrastructure for smart meter communications and power grid simulation.
While ADSC serves as the administrative center for the core A*STAR funding, it is also a networking hub that assists Illinois faculty in establishing collaborations in Singapore and submitting proposals to other Singaporean funding agencies. Funding from agencies and grants outside of the core agreement is key to the long-term success of ADSC, and already two faculty members have been awarded grants: Director Marianne Winslett has received funding from A*STAR for her work on differential privacy data mining in medical research, and Prof. Yih-Chun Hu has received a grant from the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) for work on security for wireless communications.