Research and IT Provide Strategic Collaboration for Researchers

Adam Hobaugh and Kim Wong

As seen in the Pitt Research August 2021 Newsletter

Pursuing a strategy to offer faculty the best resources for incorporating advanced computing and data technology into their work, Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob Rutenbar has appointed co-directors for the Center for Research Computing (CRC), connecting the research computing community and Pitt’s Information Technology unit. 

Rutenbar appointed co-directors Kim Wong and Adam Hobaugh co-directors of CRC, noting that their combined experience takes CRC to an unprecedented level of capabilities within Pitt’s research infrastructure. They served as interim co-directors since November 2020. 

CRC is a mainstay for the growing number of researchers integrating computing into their work, enabling free access to advanced hardware and software. A team of research faculty offer training and consultation in applications, including simulation and modeling, machine learning, and genomic sequencing analysis. 

“CRC’s new co-director structure embodies Pitt’s commitment to both scientific and technical leadership in research computation,” said Rutenbar. “Together, we leverage Pitt IT’s expertise on systems, the cloud and state of the art networking, which allows us to deliver world-class computing and data services to our full spectrum of partners. Adam brings strong IT leadership, and Kim has great leadership strength in science.” 

Rutenbar said that the challenge has been to make Pitt’s advanced computing resources familiar and accessible. Wong and Hobaugh are spearheading the development of Advanced Research Computing Services (ARCS), an umbrella structure coordinating resources for researchers.  

Wong has been with Pitt since 2008, becoming research associate professor in 2017. He was a post-doctoral fellow at Penn State and the University of Utah, after earning his PhD in chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin. He describes CRC’s mission as supporting discovery. “I want to make advanced research computing easier to use, to democratize an advanced skill set to transform the ways we pursue deeper understandings of self, community, humanity, the Universe, and the connections between them,” he said.  

Shawn Brown, Pitt’s vice chancellor for research computing and director of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), calls Wong a driver of outreach and innovation. “Kim continues to be a leader in supporting a growing range of researchers from seasoned practitioners to novices through refining configurations of hardware, software and workflows, as well as conducting many workshops and individual consultations,” said Brown. 

Hobaugh serves as Pitt’s Deputy CIO after holding Pitt IT leadership positions over 10-plus years. He has worked at a CMU robotics startup and in other industries after serving in the United States Air Force.  

Brown says Hobaugh has already made an impact. “As interim co-director, Adam has helped develop strategic goals to expand CRC services to meet the growing needs of Pitt researchers, while fostering collaboration and communication with the research community as well as PSC.” 

“I’m impressed with the number of grants tied to CRC resources, and the exceptional talent and passion on a team focused on helping faculty and students.” said Hobaugh. “They are always building and enhancing connections and relationships within the community.” 

The ARCS website will launch later this year, creating a one-stop gateway to the gamut of resources and expertise of CRC, Pitt IT, PSC, the University Library System, the Health Science Library System, and Pitt Research. 

Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer Mark Henderson is excited about the collaboration. “The positive impact that the research taking place at Pitt has had and continues to have around the world really cannot be overstated. Pitt IT and our partner organizations owe it to our great research community and each other to work together in every aspect toward collectively delivering the best possible resources,” he said.  

“I’m delighted that the Office of Research and Pitt IT have formalized our collaboration under Adam’s and Kim’s joint leadership. What we’re doing is unprecedented at Pitt, and just one of many steps we’re taking to strengthen synergies toward improving and expanding our computing and scientific research capabilities.”