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Pieces of Eight


Grant Expands Computers for ECU Research Work

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

A $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will enable researchers from East Carolina University to purchase a large Linux computing cluster to support studies in science and engineering.

Andrew Sargent, a professor of chemistry at ECU, said that the cluster would facilitate state-of-the-art modeling studies in a variety of departments on campus, including biology, chemistry, engineering, physics and microbiology/immunology at the Brody School of Medicine.

“ECU faculty members are exerting significant effort to build critical campus infrastructure and forward the research mission of the university,” said Sargent, who received the grant in August with ECU colleagues Jason Bond, Gerald Micklow, Paul Fletcher and Ernest Marshburn.

The award is the second NSF grant in three years to ECU that has targeted computing resources. Sargent’s research will utilize the powerful cluster to examine the complex reaction mechanisms of catalytic chemical processes. Such investigations will lead to the design of new, more efficient catalysts that will aid in the synthesis of commercially important molecules. The acquisition will enable Bond, a professor of biology, to expand studies in arthropod diversification and phylogeny that are supported through other NSF grants.

Micklow, a professor of engineering, will conduct basic and applied research, with an eye toward technology transfer to industrial partners. His focus is on the design and development of advanced engine concepts through the application of computational fluid dynamics.

Fletcher, a professor of microbiology/immunology in the Brody School of Medicine, aims to utilize the cluster to understand the structure and function of biological ion channels (membrane proteins) in both normal and diseased cells.

Marshburn coordinated the multidisciplinary proposal through ECU’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies. The cluster should be operational by December.

This page originally appeared in the Dec. 8, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at