University of Vermont

University Communications

$1 Million to Connect UVM and Vermont State Colleges

Utility worker installing fiber optic cable
Putting people—and data—to work, EPSCoR, a program to stimulate research in Vermont, has received $1 million to connect the Vermont State Colleges and the University of Vermont with high-speed fiber optic cables. (photo: Vermont Public Television)

Increasingly, scientific research depends upon huge pools of data — like gene sequences or weather models — shared between scientists at numerous institutions. And this sharing depends upon fast fiber-optic networks and other so-called cyber-infrastructure — far faster than a conventional internet hook-up.

In Vermont, that information pipeline has not been as big as necessary — or it's entirely missing in places.

But that’s changing.

The Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (VT EPSCoR) at the University of Vermont has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the next two years to connect the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) and the University of Vermont with high-speed fiber optic cables and other information-sharing technologies.

The new service between UVM and the VSC data hub will allow all twenty-nine VSC locations to participate more fully in collaborative research with UVM scientists and educators — including all 12 Community College of Vermont (CCV) centers; both campuses and two nursing education centers of Vermont Technical College (VTC); and the Castleton State College, Johnson State College, and Lyndon State College campuses.

The current connection is 300 megabytes per second. The new system will be 10 gigabytes per second — thirty-three times faster.

“Our proposal was designed as part of a larger effort to improve teaching and research initiatives across Vermont in so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Judith Van Houten, professor of biology and state director of VT EPSCoR, “U.S. and state leaders increasingly see improvement in these areas as a key to future economic success and job development.”

The new in-state system will also be connected to a larger “Fiber Ring” that links UVM to a hub through Albany, N.Y., and Hanover, N.H. This fiber ring system allows researchers around the region to share information at 60 gigabytes per second. This link helps connect Vermont with “Internet2,” an expanding advanced networking consortium involving hundreds of U.S. research universities and corporations. Vermont businesses will also be able to access the fiber ring.

The new funding comes through an arm of the National Science Foundation’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Program that seeks to make better cyber connections on campuses and between colleges.

“This increased cyber-capacity will better connect researchers and partner institutions within the Vermont State Colleges -- especially the new engagement with the Community College of Vermont,” said Timothy Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State College system, “new courses and opportunities for students seeking careers in science and technology will be offered as a result.”

The new award will also provide funding to connect a network of K-12 schools, libraries, museums, art galleries and hospitals in Vermont, through an initiative of Internet2, making many new resources available to Vermont community institutions

“We aim to improve collaboration among diverse participants and campuses and communities in Vermont and throughout the region,” said Kelvin Chu, associate professor of physics at UVM and VT EPSCoR associate project director. “Videoconferencing capability, visualization and new curriculum options across the state and region are also part of this project.”

Additional plans for the grant include:

• A new bioinformatics course, organized at Johnson State College, to be offered across the whole Vermont State College system in spring 2012 and taught by faculty at UVM and across the Northeast.

•At Lyndon State College, the award will enable faculty studying weather forecasting within Vermont to improve their ability to analyze and collaborate with fellow researchers around the region.

• Policy studies at UVM will involve students from several state colleges in their survey work.

The award complements recent funding to support the Northeast Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (NECC) initiative that enabled a high-speed connection between UVM and the Internet2 network.