2012 Annual Report, U.Va. Office of the President

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Refocusing research & scholarship

Introduction

One of this University’s distinctive missions is to harness creativity and discovery in the service of society. Whether it is a new musical composition that combines electroacoustics with traditional instruments; a plan for a new linear park that will run through the heart of Barcelona; or efforts to restore seagrass to Virginia’s coastal bays, setting the stage for the resurgence of the state’s shellfish industry, our students and faculty are contributing in significant and widely recognized ways to the social good.

In an age known for volatility and unrelenting change, serving society means continually refocusing and recalibrating the research and scholarship we conduct, both on Grounds and with partners around the world. With initiatives like OpenGrounds, we are always looking for new ways to organize our efforts, drawing on novel combinations of faculty from across the University to frame pressing problems in innovative ways.

In doing so, we seek to capitalize on our strengths. One opportunity for U.Va. lies in collaborative teams that analyze and gain new insights from big data, the massive data sets now generated by virtually every man-made and natural event. The ability to address the challenges that define our century—the need to ensure our security; develop sustainable sources of energy, water, and food; and realize the promise of molecular medicine, to name just three—depends on our mastery of big data. U.Va.’s existing strengths put us in position to be a leader in this field.

The increasing complexity of research and big data challenges requires new approaches in computing. We established the University of Virginia Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering (UVACSE), whose consultants have already assisted scores of researchers, helping economists, for instance, better understand market forces and environmental scientists assess the ability of endangered species to withstand climate change. In the process, UVACSE enables University researchers to ask more-ambitious questions while creating opportunities for scientists and engineers to advance the frontiers of computation.