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SDSC Welcomes Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute Staff

New Institute to be Co-located at SDSC

Published March 5, 2018

UC San Diego Alumnus Taner Halıcıoğlu speaks at the March 2, 2018 dedication event for the Halicioğlu Data Science Institute, to be co-located at SDSC.  Credit: Jon Chi Lou, SDSC

UC San Diego’s official launch of the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI) was welcomed by the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), which will house research labs and offices for HDSI’s senior staff and faculty in the Center’s East Building.

“We are pleased that SDSC will be home to many HDSI faculty and staff as this exciting new initiative gets underway,” said SDSC Director Michael Norman. “We look forward to SDSC being a hub of connectivity for data analytics and innovation for the entire UC San Diego campus.”

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla led the dedication event at SDSC’s auditorium on March 2, following last year’s announcement of a $75 million donation from UC San Diego Alumnus Taner Halıcıoğlu (hah-li-jyo-loo) to create such an institute.  

The gift from Halıcıoğlu, the first paid employee at Facebook, was the largest ever received from a UC San Diego alumnus. In addition to Facebook, Halıcıoğlu also worked at eBay and Blizzard Entertainment, and currently is a private investor as well as a lecturer in UC San Diego’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

“This institute will define the future of data science,” said Khosla in welcoming attendees to “the new home” of the institute at UC San Diego, adding that “data science is the discipline of the future.”

HDSI will focus on cross-disciplinary studies involving computer science, cognitive science, mathematics, and other fields and be a campus-wide initiative. In addition to SDSC, the institute will have facilities in other campus locations including the Qualcomm Institute at Atkinson Hall.

“It just made sense to have the institute at SDSC because this place is all about data,” said Halıcıoğlu, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the UC San Diego in 1996 and interned at SDSC in 1995 and 1996. In remarks during the event, he noted that “data science has technically always existed, but I don’t think it really started to coalesce into an actual discipline until recently. I’m excited that we’ll hopefully be on the forefront of that.”

The new institute has been collaborating with other research units at UC San Diego, including SDSC’s Data Science Hub, where experts at SDSC and other parts of the university can apply their experience in building multi-disciplinary data science teams to help provide solutions to regional, national, and global challenges such as smart cities, precision medicine, advanced manufacturing, and data center automation.

“We very much look forward to working with HDSI by not only developing new applications for data-driven research and analytics, but by helping to train and thereby establishing a modern data science workforce that can help drive innovation,” said Ilkay Altintas, SDSC’s chief data science officer and director of the SDSC Data Science Hub.

SDSC’s mission has expanded to encompass more than advanced computation, as researchers require innovative applications and expertise related to the ever-increasing amount of digitally-based science data. The Center’s current strategic plan focuses on three main areas: Advanced and versatile computing, data science and engineering, and life sciences computing.

“For more than 30 years – and as one of the first four U.S. supercomputer centers opened in 1985 by the National Science Foundation – SDSC has long been at the national forefront of large-scale scientific computing, which is foundational to the emergence of data-enabled scientific research,” said Norman. “SDSC is a living laboratory for students seeking a career in scientific research, as well as high-tech companies and other organizations that are seeking partnerships to advance their research through the use of high-performance and data-intensive computing.”

In addition to Altintas, founding faculty members of HDSI from SDSC also include Michael Norman; SDSC Distinguished Scientist Chaitanya Baru, who also directs the Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Development Lab; Frank Würthwein, a UC San Diego physics professor who leads SDSC’s distributed high-throughput computing activities; Amarnath Gupta, director of the Center’s Advanced Query Processing Lab; and Lead Data Scientist Mai Nguyen.

About SDSC

As an Organized Research Unit of UC San Diego, SDSC is considered a leader in data-intensive computing and cyberinfrastructure, providing resources, services, and expertise to the national research community, including industry and academia. Cyberinfrastructure refers to an accessible, integrated network of computer-based resources and expertise, focused on accelerating scientific inquiry and discovery. SDSC supports hundreds of multidisciplinary programs spanning a wide variety of domains, from earth sciences and biology to astrophysics, bioinformatics, and health IT. SDSC’s petascale Comet supercomputer is a key resource within the National Science Foundation’s XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment) program.