Mass. schools team up for supercomputer center

A 9-acre site will house the supercomputing center.

At a gritty industrial site occupied a century ago by a textile mill, five universities are collaborating to install supercomputers that will recreate the start of the universe and perform other research.

The developers of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, which is being built and is expected to be operating by the end of next year, were drawn to Holyoke for the same reason industrialists flocked to the city in the 19th century: cheap water power from the Connecticut River.

“It’s coming full circle for us,” said John Goodhue, executive director of the project.

Boston University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts formed the venture to boost academic research in protein structure, fluid flows, the dynamics of the earth’s atmosphere, human social interaction, the evolution of the galaxy and other issues.

The universities are each spending $10 million, the state of Massachusetts has committed $25 million and technology companies EMC Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. are contributing $2.5 million apiece.

The universities will pool resources by using the 90,000-square-foot building, which will be larger than anything they could operate on their own, said Jim Kurose, executive associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UMass-Amherst.

Only about of dozen employees will work at the computing center, with the bulk of the research being done remotely from the campuses.

The people who work at the center will include administrators responsible for finances and use of the center, security personnel and employees who oversee the building’s operations and grounds.

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