Connections with the Cornell Theory Center

The Cornell Theory Center (CTC)(, directed by CS Professor Thomas Coleman, is Cornell’s high-performance computing and interdisciplinary computational-research center, serving more than 150 faculty research groups across the Ithaca campus and at the Weill Medical College in New York City.

Through a strategic partnership with Microsoft, Dell, and Intel, CTC has pioneered the use of industry-standard computational clusters running Windows™ as a productive large-scale computing environment. CTC’s resources, which consist of a cluster complex of more than 1,500 processors, keep Cornell at the forefront of computational science and engineering. New technological advances include the integration of the database software SQLserver into complex engineering applications and the application of .NET and Web services to high-performance computing. CTC operates the first Windows/Dell/Intel–based CAVE 3-D immersive virtual-reality environment, which is used by a variety of projects, including an engineering design course and an architecture course. Students in CEE 479 and M&AE 491 have access to EduCluster, a 16-processor cluster dedicated to student applications.

CTC has three core interdisciplinary research emphases: computational finance, computational biology/genomics, and computational materials.

The computational finance group (http://www. is headed by CTC director Thomas Coleman and includes CS research associate Yuying Li. Projects include investigating new optimization algorithms for large-scale portfolio analysis and value-at-risk calculations. Much of CTC’s computational-finance work takes place at CTC–Manhattan, which is located across from the New York Stock Exchange and is the site of an annual securities derivatives conference.

CTC’s Computational Biology Service Unit (CBSU) (, headed by CS professor Ron Elber, applies computational resources and expertise to a variety of applications in the life sciences, ranging from canine genetics to plant breeding to protein-structure modeling. Each summer one or two undergraduates are chosen from a pool of applicants for the CBSU Undergraduate Summer Internship. Through this internship, undergrads conduct research under the guidance of a faculty advisor and in collaboration with CBSU staff. One of the 2003 CBSU Internships was awarded to Keith Jamison, a CS junior.

The Computational Materials Institute at CTC focuses on fracture mechanics and serves as one of the test beds for the adaptive software project led by CS professor Keshav Pingali, who is also a CTC associate director. The adaptive software project is developing software systems that can adapt to changes at the application, algorithmic, and system levels.

CS professor Johannes Gehrke is also involved in interdisciplinary CTC projects. He is applying his data-mining expertise to a pilot project involving data acquisition and analysis using the Cornell-operated Arecibo radiotelescope and to a genomics database that tracks pathogens.

CTC has done pioneering work in science communication, outreach, and informal education through its Virtual Worlds SciCentr, which consists of a series of multi-user virtual environments. This project has engaged several interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate programmers, designers, and content developers in the creation of interactive exhibits, as well as undergraduate mentors who support teams of high school student developers at remote locations.

A number of team members come from Computer Science. SciCentr brings CTC into interaction with research scientists and faculty in the fields of biotechnology, communication, fine arts, theatre arts, music, and architecture. CTC is also engaging undergraduates in development of interactive online lab modules focused on bioinformatics through the BioQUEST Curriculum Library.

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