Press Archive

Dogan Seber Joins the San Diego Supercomputer Center as Director of the DAKS Geoinformatics Lab and GEON Project Manager

Published 06/23/2003

Chaitan Baru, codirector of the Data and Knowledge Systems (DAKS) program at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), announced that geoscientist Dogan Seber is joining SDSC as director of the Geoinformatics Lab in the DAKS program. Seber is also serving as project manager on the NSF large Information Technology Research project, GEON, for Geosciences Network, for which SDSC is coordinating IT research.

"Dogan is a talented and visionary scientist," said Baru. "We're very pleased that he is joining SDSC, and are looking forward to working with him to build a solid cyberinfrastructure foundation that will serve not only the geosciences but other disciplines as well."

Seber comes to SDSC from Cornell University, where he established and directed the Earth Science Information Systems Program in the Institute for the Study of the Continents, a project to develop a comprehensive geological and geophysical digital database system primarily for the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States. One of the largest programs of its kind in the nation, the interactive Web-based system (http://atlas.geo.cornell.edu/) serves hundreds of users daily ranging from geoscientists to elementary school students.

Seber received his undergraduate degree in geophysics from the Istanbul Technical University in his native Turkey, and his Ph.D. in seismology and geophysics from Cornell. "While I was still working on my Ph.D., I realized how much better and faster I would be able to do my geosciences research if data sets were available online and ready to use," said Seber. "That sparked my interest in geoinformatics."

As increasing numbers of geoscientists have come to recognize the value of information technologies in research, a series of NSF-sponsored workshops led to the GEON initiative, an ambitious five-year NSF project to build a modern cyberinfrastructure for the solid earth geosciences. "We found we were hitting a wall in our abilities to apply information technologies," said Seber. "We realized that we needed a large-scale effort working with computer scientists, and we found the expertise at SDSC was the right match for our needs."

GEON involves a large collaboration involving researchers from various geosciences disciplines and computer scientists, including Baru who is coordinating IT research and Bertram Ludäscher, director of the Knowledge-Based Information Systems (KBI) lab at SDSC. "It has taken a lot of time to develop a common language and understand how to work with each other," said Seber. "And this is now putting us in a good a position to do important new research."

Seber and other "early adopters" of geoinformatics in the GEON collaboration have a vision of a geosciences cyberinfrastructure that will help scientists solve earth science problems faster and on a larger scale, ultimately enabling them to encompass the entire Earth system. "The future for geosciences is in this direction," said Seber. "Geoinformatics is on the map, but still needs more momentum." Once geoscientists see examples that they can actually use, Seber feels they will understand geoinformatics better and adopt the new technologies and methods. "Managing and integrating today's massive data sets is an overwhelming task," said Seber. "So the key is to deliver useful tools."

As for his goals at SDSC, Seber responded that he hopes to help make SDSC the geoinformatics center nationally and internationally. "SDSC has unique assets, including size and expertise, to make a discipline-changing contribution in the geosciences." He also hopes to bring more geosciences expertise to SDSC. "One of SDSC's strengths is its interdisciplinary character," said Seber. "It's vital to have domain scientists like me working side-by-side with computer scientists to make sure the cyberinfrastructure will be useful for working scientists."

Although his work at SDSC this will take him away from pure geosciences research, Seber will have a joint appointment in the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). He says that "like all of us working in GEON and geoinformatics, we know that we'll be able to do better science if we invest the time to help build better tools for the geosciences."