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Computer Science Professor Working on Federal Disease Prevention Grant

September 18, 2012

Dr. Alisa Neeman is building cyberinfrastructure to enable researchers
to better identify and prevent diseases.

One of the newest faculty members at The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College is making a worldwide impact. Alisa Neeman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of computer science at Rio Grande, is developing and upgrading software that can be used by scientists around the world.

Earlier this year, the Athens resident was selected to take part in a $2 million National Institutes of Health grant project. The grant is titled, “Computational design of specific binding proteins using Leave-One-Out.” Neeman is working with principal investigator Chris Bystroff, a researcher at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, on the project.

Neeman’s job is to help Bystroff’s team share use of his protein design software, which runs on a supercomputer at the Institute. A job she says is much easier said than done.

In order to allow other scientists around the world to design proteins, special software had to be used to enable access to the supercomputer from remote locations. Enter Neeman.

Neeman installed the Web server software and configured it to provide remote access. She worked with IT staff at Rensselaer Polytechnic’s supercomputing center, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), to create multiple levels of protection and keep the data secure. Because the research is constantly evolving, Neeman must continuously adjust the Web interface and workflow software so it can use new algorithms and data.

Neeman said it is satisfying to see her software being used in a research project designed to fight disease, and is looking forward to her next five years of project work.

“I can talk with the students about my real-world experiences,” Neeman said. These experiences are helpful for students to understand how to apply the principles they are learning in the classroom.

While Neeman is understandably busy she is still finding time to meet her new students and colleagues during her first semester teaching at Rio Grande.

“It rocks,” Neeman said about her new university. “The students here are very engaged and motivated; they are probably the most respectful students I have ever met,” she added.

For more information about Rio Grande’s computer science program, call Dr. Alisa Neeman at
1-800-282-7201 or 740-245-7042, or e-mail: aneeman@rio.edu.

For additional information on the wide range of academic programs offered on Rio Grande’s scenic campus, log on to www.rio.edu.

As for the grant project, State University of New York at Buffalo’s Center for Computational Research is providing the Web server, server hardware, environmental power, cooling and support for the project under a grant from NYSTAR (New York State Division of Science, Technology and Innovation).

The project is using HUbzero, an open source software platform for creating dynamic
web sites that support scientific research and educational activities. HUBzero was created by researchers at Purdue University in conjunction with the NSF-sponsored Network for Computational Nanotechnology.

About Rio Grande

Rio Grande is comprised of The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College. It is the only combined community college and private university in the country, located on a retreat-like setting in Rio Grande, Ohio. Operating as an institution of higher learning for more than 130 years, Rio Grande offers more than 60 programs of study providing associates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, affordable tuition, direct access to an accomplished faculty, and a safe, empowering environment allowing students and professors to create individualized college experiences that lead to successful futures. For more information on the wide range of academic programs offered on Rio Grande’s scenic campus, call 1-800-282-7201 or log on to www.rio.edu.