Director of Research Computing Named

By Jennifer Clampet

UTEP News Service

Pat Teller eases herself into the conversation, responding to the visual cues of her interviewer – a furrowed brow, a blank stare, a twisted tongue that can’t quite grasp the cyber terminology.

And just before the listener sets in to being overwhelmed, Teller maneuvers as though she’s riding a horse and pulls back on the reins.Pat Teller, Ph.D.Pat Teller, Ph.D.

The computer science professor shuffles her red cowboy boots in front of her, clasps her hands together and says “OK, let me explain it to you this way.”

The 15-year faculty member at The University of Texas at El Paso will be applying her knowledge and expertise in the field of supercomputing to help elevate researchers at UTEP to the next generation of high-performance computing.  

“UTEP is encouraging the use of a centrally managed cloud rather than having a proliferation of research group clusters,” Teller said. “The maintenance and management of clusters takes scientist away from the science.”

Appointed as UTEP’s first director of research computing, Teller’s responsibilities include promoting the use of local and remote high-end research computing and storage for faculty, staff and students in all academic fields.

From biology and chemistry researchers to history and education faculty, the use of high-end computing tools is endless. Don’t think a history director could find a use for such technology? Think again.

“We call Pat our guardian angel,” said Kristine Navarro, director of the Institute of Oral History at UTEP.

The institute’s oral history collection of more than 2,000 interviews that dates back to 1976 is now securely stored on a 5-petabyte system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center – a center that is collaborating with the University of Texas Research Cyberinfrastructure initiative.

“We were living off external drives that were crashing on us. Through Pat’s efforts we now have an archive that is safe. Now we can sleep at night,” Navarro said.

The new technology also has applications for scientific researchers who produce large-scale data and are continually investigating more complex problems and equations.

IBM’s recent pledge of more than $90,000 in hardware and services for UTEP’s High Performance Computing Virtual Research Laboratory will create the foundation for the University’s first HPC Cloud research computing environment.

“The idea is to provide researchers with high-end computing environments over the Internet on demand. These environments will enable the researchers to employ multiple processing elements simultaneously to solve a problem, reducing the time to solution," Teller said. 

Administered by UTEP information technology staff, the HPCVRL will be configured to permit researchers to invest in the system – in effect owning part of the system.

That “share” would guarantee the investing researchers a virtual cluster of a size at least equal to their investment.

The arrangement, however, has an additional advantage that would allow the researchers to be provided with a virtual cluster that is larger than their investment when the processors are available. In layman’s terms, the researchers could periodically have access to more processors, reducing their times for solutions.

Teller’s new position comes as the University begins to install the hardware for the HPCVRL – for which Teller is the coordinator – and as the University continues to take advantage of the UTRC initiative. The initiative provides opportunities for high-performance computing, networking, data storage, education and training within the UT System.

As a member of the UTRC Faculty Outreach Working Group, Teller is the liaison between the UT System’s initiative and UTEP faculty. She will be working to promote the use of UTRC and UTEP resources to expand the scope of research at UTEP and enable collaborations across institutions.

The projects come at a time when UTEP is striving to reach Tier One national research status.

Teller, a New York University graduate, is well-known in the high-performance computing world as an accomplished researcher and educator.

She has attained about $7 million in research funds. In addition, she garnered about $2 million in awards for high-performance computing infrastructure at UTEP, including a UT System 2004-05 Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention Award, and more than $2.5 million in awards targeted at the education, retention and advancement of students, in particular those from underrepresented populations.

“Dr. Teller’s expertise and her abilities to network at the national level are highly valued,” said Roberto Osegueda, Ph.D., UTEP’s vice president of research. “With her leadership, UTEP is now on a firm path to expand research and teaching opportunities and to keep pace with the rapidly changing high-performance computing technologies.”