The main objectives of CCFASE and NCCU-CREST are as follows:
Establish a world-class computational research center in fundamental and applied physical science.
- Broad interdisciplinary research engenders a level of complexity that makes it generally unsuitable for funding through separate independent grants, at least without the establishment of a centralized organizational infrastructure.
- There are also particular economies of scale inherent to the use of high-performance computing that justify centralized sharing of computational resources, i.e., hardware, software, and support personnel.
- Establishing a recognized "center," both as an organizational entity and a physical location, can also be a critical factor in integrating the expertise and knowledge base of multiple researchers, particularly across disciplines.
Actively integrate independent research and computational science into undergraduate education.
The primary educational goal of the CCFASE is to enhance education and training in the sciences and to provide an impetus for students to both enter and continue careers in research. Early exposure to research greatly increases the likelihood that the student will pursue graduate education in science or engineering.
Anecdotal evidence from the NCCU Department of Physics provides an ample demonstration of this: prior to including students in research, only 5 to 10 percent of our physics graduates went on to graduate school. In the last few years in which all students have been supported with research stipends, each one of the graduates was successfully enrolled in a graduate program.
Key strategies for accomplishing this purpose include the following:
- Providing multiple opportunities for participation in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research projects
- Ensuring that these projects are strongly mentored by dedicated faculty and supported with stipend or credit given for the student work
- Increase integration of the techniques, methodologies, and modes of discovery common to primary research in the standard curriculum. This will increase the possibilities for drawing students into research projects and also enhance the educational experience for science students, researchers, and non-researchers alike. NCCU has, for example, actively moved forward in the development of new degree programs in computational science, recognizing the growing workforce niche for individuals who possess a balanced set of technical (algorithmic and programming) skills along with practical knowledge of theory and application in a specific discipline.
“It takes teams of skilled personnel representing many disciplines to manage computing system capabilities and apply them to complicated real-world challenges. Indeed, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee believes that multidisciplinary teams required to address computational science challenges represent what will be the most common mode of science and engineering discovery throughout the 21st century.”—President's Information Technology Advisory Committee 2005
Enhance the quality of MS degree programs and establish PhD programs in science at NCCU.
CCFASE has two particular goals with respect to the existing graduate programs at NCCU:
- Improve the quality of the graduate education experience in the MS degree programs across the sciences. Increased support and opportunities for research through CCFASE will diversify and broaden the scope of research in the existing science departments at NCCU.
- Increase the number of students earning degrees in the programs. Increased graduate student support will allow for more effective recruitment into MS degree programs. Funds for postdoctoral researchers and equipment will enable the establishment of a dynamic environment capable of competitive research activities at an HBCU institution.
A long-term goal of CCFASE is to establish a suitable base of research and education activities to justify the creation of PhD programs in the computational and physical sciences.
The university supports the initiative to expand research opportunities for minority students, thus adding more scientists with a PhD in the physical sciences. The university's commitment to increasing the number of minority scientists in the physical sciences is undisputed.
Gradual increase of enrollment through CCFASE funding will eventually double the number of MS degrees awarded, a benchmark that, when met, will meet administrative stipulations for the creation of PhD programs in the sciences at NCCU.
“Universities must implement new multidisciplinary structures and organizations that provide rigorous, multifaceted educational preparation for the growing ranks of computational scientists the Nation will need to remain at the forefront of scientific discovery.”—President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, 2005
Establish an HBCU computational science network.
A key element of CCFASE will be the creation of a computational science network (CSN) that will connect scientists, faculty, and students at Historically Black College and University (HBCU) institutions with their colleagues in national laboratories, research universities, and scientific industry.
The mission of the HBCU-CSN is to connect research and development efforts in HBCUs to the more "mainstream" scientific endeavors in computational science and physical science. This will establish CCFASE as a centralized resource for NCCU as well as organize and provide resources for research to the extended HBCU community.
This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers HRD-0833184.