I-Light helps Earlham and Wabash win NSF grant

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Earlham College and Wabash College are connecting their students with researchers around the world thanks to the $700,000 in grants I-Light helped them win.

From a fund of nearly $20 million, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards 20 to 35 Campus Cyberinfrastructure - Infrastructure, Innovation and Engineering (CC*IIE) grants yearly. This money aids cyberinfrastructure re-engineering and network integration activities improving performance, reliability, and predictability levels for science applications and research distribution.

Increasingly, NSF grants such as the CC*IIE require demonstrated access to research and education (R&E) networks. Fortunately, Earlham and Wabash share the distinction of being connected to state, national, and international R&E communities through I-Light, Indiana’s high-speed fiber optic network.

In addition to giving small colleges and universities a seat at the table with the large research institutions, I-Light helps members obtain funding to upgrade campus networks. I-Light procures support letters, provides money to attend NSF workshops like the Broadening the Reach conference in Kansas, and facilitates general planning to members seeking grants.

“Winning this grant means our labs will be better connected and our scientific data will be transmitted faster and more efficiently throughout the region,” says Tom Steffes, Earlham College CIO, and principal investigator for the Earlham CC*IIE project.

Earlham received $347,228 for their proposal, “CC*IIE Campus Design: Network Infrastructure for Improved Science Discovery and Education.” The grant will upgrade Earlham’s cyberinfrastructure to 10Gbps, which includes a dedicated network for science research traffic, and, through I-Light, vital access to Internet2.

Earlham College has a long tradition of undergraduate research participation, both independently and in collaboration with faculty. The CC*IIE grant augments Earlham's undergraduate science education by bolstering computational resources both on and off campus and provide students access to scientific resources and applications through I-Light’s R&E networks.

“Leveraging the networking expertise within I-Light through this partnership allows us to provide a much higher level of service to our researchers than we could on our own,” said Brad Weaver, Wabash College director of IT services and principal investigator for the Wabash CC*IIE project. “Because of I-Light, we can improve our network and open new research and scholarship opportunities for our students, enabling the College to build on this success.”

Wabash College won $347,107 for their proposal, “CC*IIE Campus Design: Network Upgrade and Science DMZ to Enable High-Performance Data Transfer.” The grant will increase Wabash's R&E connection via I-Light to 10Gbps, raising the speed and providing redundant paths from the network core to Wabash science buildings. The grant will also enable unimpeded 10Gbps high-performance data transfer for researchers across regional and national research networks.

The grant will also meet immediate research needs, including work at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), and with the Midwest Undergraduate Computational Chemistry Consortium (MU3C).

“It was a very proud moment for I-Light when two of our members were awarded the CC*IIE grants,” said Caroline Weilhamer, operations manager, I-Light Network/Indiana Gigapop.

“Indiana’s colleges of every size are doing major research,” said I-Light Director Marianne Chitwood. “An I-Light connection gives small colleges and universities a seat at the table with the large research institutions.”