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Warburton, Miller awarded $100K National Science Foundation planning grant

ISSUED: 6 July 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The National Science Foundation has awarded a one-year $99,999 planning grant to Shepherd University to develop a comprehensive plan to cost effectively connect the university to the Internet2 national backbone.

“This planning grant will support Shepherd’s exploration of the feasibility to connect to Internet2,” said Dr. Robert Warburton, dean, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. “We are confident of a positive outcome and that by taking advantage of the potential 100 times faster data connection we will be able to enhance multiple degree programs at Shepherd and across the region.”

Internet2, a not-for-profit consortium devoted to building the next generation of internet based on fiber optics, was founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions in 1996. It is made up of universities, corporations, and governments from the United States and more than 100 other countries, and serves 317 U.S. universities, 60 government agencies, and 43 regional and state education networks.

Universities that are part of Internet2 include University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State, Virginia Tech, George Washington University, and West Virginia University. Jason Miller, assistant professor of computer information science, said for Shepherd to join Internet2, it would require an optical fiber connection from campus to some already-connected institution.

“Given our placement between rivers, mountains, and state lines, we’re not sure this is even feasible,” Miller said. “Staying connected would involve monthly fees over and above what Shepherd already pays for its regular internet connection. Before we start digging trenches, we want to make sure the project would be sustainable.”

If Shepherd can join Internet2, the enhanced connectivity will allow the university to expand its research and educational offerings in the STEM and other disciplines.

“We are sure that the computer faculty can think of ways to leverage high-speed access to supercomputers around the world, and we anticipate that our students will benefit from the exciting research and collaboration that Internet2 will enable at Shepherd,” Miller said. “We believe that, within the next 10 years, researchers in every field will be creatively incorporating data visualization, image recognition, big data analytics, and natural language processing. It is our hope that Shepherd faculty across many departments will want to leverage Internet2 to get bigger grants to fund broader collaborations that require currently untenable levels of data exchange.”

Warburton said another important aspect of the planning grant will be developing collaborations with area community and technical colleges, and partnerships with businesses through the Shepherd Entrepreneurship and Research Corporation.

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