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New Networking Alliance at Hardymon Building

by Deb Weis

The new UK Alliance for Networking Excellence, various industrial partnerships, and 10 new scholarships were announced last fall in the dedication ceremony for the $4.8 million James F. Hardymon Building.

The two-story, state-of-the-art facility on the corner of Maxwell and Rose streets brings together faculty and students from the College of Engineering, other academic and corporate researchers, and UK Communications Systems. The collaboration of these groups is central to the mission of the UK Alliance for Networking Excellence.

"The 27,000-square-foot building was designed around the concept of collaboration, with open space and furnishings that support fluidity of movement among team members and accommodate various types of interaction," says Doyle Friskney, associate vice president for Information Systems. "We can facilitate multidisciplinary research with other UK faculty, researchers at other institutions, and corporate leaders and innovators."

The UK Alliance for Networking Excellence is equipped with the most current technology and high-speed computing access capabilities to support research of evolving network communications systems. The UK Laboratory for Advanced Networking, made up of faculty and students from the computer science and electrical engineering departments, occupies the entire second floor of the building.

According to Jim Griffioen, director of the advanced networking lab, "the collaborations going on here are best captured by the term 'Metaverse,' which is the over-arching theme that ties all of our research interests together." Griffioen describes the Metaverse as a new model for networked communication and collaborative interaction that will ultimately expand the way we interact with computers and with each other.

"We're working on new protocols, or language, to transmit data for collaborative environments where users in different locations can interact with each other, or a user can interact virtually with real-world objects or models," Griffioen explains.

A number of novel technical approaches from different disciplines are brought together in the Metaverse theme. UK researchers have built an immersive display room, using off-the-shelf PCs, where images are displayed on the walls instead of a monitor, surrounding the user. The room is used to test the communications systems needed to support this new environment—network techniques and protocols for moving massive amounts of data across a computer network. This prototype facility is being designed for use by academic researchers, industrial partners and educators.

Education is a critical component of the Alliance. Instructional programs will be developed to train UK students in networking and data communication skills that will be demanded by technology companies across the Commonwealth and the nation. In addition, corporate partners are invited to invest in the education and mentoring of students through the UK Alliance for Networking Excellence Corporate Scholarship Program. The scholarships provide full tuition for two years to students with a declared focus in advanced networking and innovation, and present many opportunities to become involved in real-world challenges and opportunities.

Current corporate partners include Cisco Systems, Dell, GartnerGroup, IBM, MCI/WorldCom and Verizon.

The networking and communications systems focus at the Hardymon building enhances UK's position among the national leaders in academic high-speed computing. Recently, UK's new supercomputer placed the university 10th among all high-performance academic computer centers in the United States and 200th in the rankings of the top 500 supercomputer sites worldwide. UK is currently involved in the development of Internet II and was the lead partner in the development of SEPSCoR, a research network connecting six southeastern universities. UK is also a regional partner in the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure super-computer grant awarded to the National Computational Science Alliance.

UK's new Alliance headquarters is named in honor of UK College of Engineering alumnus James F. Hardymon, retired CEO of Textron Inc., a $10 billion global company with aircraft, automotive, industrial, and finance operations. Hardymon's gift to UK in February 1999 established a chair in networking in the Department of Computer Science and a chair in manufacturing in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as five graduate fellowships for students in the dual B.S./M.B.A. program in the College of Engineering and the Carol Martin Gatton College of Business and Economics. The Maysville, Kentucky, native is a former member of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees.