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Zooniv er

s o cr Dr. John Wallin works to hone and harness the computing power of scientists and citizens alike

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n astrophysicist who studies interacting galaxies and the gravitational force of objects at the edge of our solar system, Dr. John Wallin has a passion for applying the power of computing to astronomy. As the director of MTSU’s new Ph.D. program in Computational Science, Wallin is eager to explain how his chosen field is so crucial to scientific advancement.

“Across the sciences, computation has become an indispensable bridge between theory and experiments,” he says. “Complex theoretical calculations are impossible without computer simulations. The new Ph.D. program administered by the College of Basic and Applied Sciences directly addresses a national priority. A 2005 report to then-President George W. Bush, authored by the National Coordination Office for Information Technology Research and Development, strongly recommended that universities and the federal government’s R&D agencies make “coordinated, fundamental, structural changes” to affirm the

integral role of computational science in addressing the nation’s most important problems, including national security, public health, and economic innovation. The program also addresses the large demand for computational scientists in Tennessee. Oak Ridge National Laboratory has some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world and employs hundreds of computational science researchers. Arnold Engineering Development Center also employs scientists working in this area. For Wallin, the Computational Science program is part of a much-needed effort to redress a widening gap between a valuable tool and its users. “Most science students are never taught how to use computational tools effectively at either the undergraduate or graduate level,” says Wallin, who spent much of the last decade helping build the computational science Ph.D. program at George Mason University in Virginia. “The way that science is being practiced has become more and more disconnected from the way it is taught in the classroom,” he adds. “Unless this disconnect is addressed, we will simply not have scientists who have the tools they need to solve the complex problems we are facing across the science disciplines.” As much as Wallin works to increase the training and skill of today’s and tomorrow’s scientists, he’s no abstracted, lab-coated elitist. Wallin also serves a pivotal role in the study of an online suite of citizen-science projects called Zooniverse to determine the implications of public involvement in large-scale scientific activities. Zooniverse projects by Drew Ruble

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MTSU Magazine April 2011  

MTSU Magazine is the premier print publication for Middle Tennessee State University. Published by the Office of Marketing and Communication...

MTSU Magazine April 2011  

MTSU Magazine is the premier print publication for Middle Tennessee State University. Published by the Office of Marketing and Communication...

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