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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 3, 2006

ITS Research Scientist Gets $221,000 NIH Grant For Parallel Computing Study

Jun Ni, an associate research scientist at the Academic Technology Research Services unit of the University of Iowa's Information Technology Services (ITS), has received a $221,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to research the use of parallel computing in medical imaging with the goal of handling future high-resolution medical images.

As principal investigator for the grant, he will conduct several research projects aimed at developing a parallel algorithm, or mathematical procedure, for micro CT (computed tomography) medical image reconstruction.

The co-principal investigators are Ge Wang, professor of radiology, and Hengyong Yu, associate research scientist, in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Department of Radiology.

Ni says that CT scanners have been used to generate patient CT images for many years. Although the algorithms used for medical image reconstruction have improved, one challenge remains: finding an economical and efficient way to quickly perform medical image reconstruction, especially for high-resolution datasets in micro CT image processing.

"The basic idea behind the project is to decompose the data for micro CT medical image reconstruction using multiple computing resources that are distributed geographically," Ni said. "This way, people can handle much larger datasets and obtain higher resolution images for early radiological diagnostics. The project has great potential to make a significant impact on human life."

Recently, Ni and colleagues Wang and Yu developed a parallel algorithm, which they successfully deployed on the NCSA (National Center fro Supercomputing and Applications) TeraGrid system. As a result of their success, industrial partners -- including GE, Siemens and Microsoft -- have expressed an interest in collaborating.

To advance their parallel computing work, Dr. Ni and Dr. Wang recently established a Medical Imaging High Performance Computing Lab ( with the goal of supporting leading-edge, high performance computing for medical imaging. Surprisingly, the lab includes a supercomputer system built from recycled computers at low cost or no cost at all.

Ni and his colleagues say that they appreciate the support they have received from the Department of Radiology and ITS. "Without everybody's support, it is impossible to establish the foundation for achieving any results," Ni said.

"For example, the Department of Radiology -- especially Dr. Laurie Fajardo, UI professor and head of radiology -- enthusiastically supported the project by providing research space. Many UI facility groups provided unbelievable computer equipment. For example, Diane Machatka, director of space planning and utilization, and her colleagues James H. Smith and Likang Zhu contributed about 60 retired Gateway PCs from classrooms. Les Neu and Marianne Holton from Instructional Technology Centers of ITS provided us with about 50 legacy PCs and Macintoshes. The retired PCs enabled the construction of five clusters together with 200 processors. We can claim it as being -- and it is -- a supercomputing system built at virtually no cost!

"It is a great idea to re-use recycled computers -- originally sponsored by UI student computer fees -- for medical research.

"We believe high performance computing will play an important part in future medical imaging. The Biomedical Imaging Platform (BIP) initiative led by Dr. Fajardo indicates that an integration of innovative methodologies of science and engineering is needed to solve challenging medical imaging problems."

Ni, who has aided the UI research computing community for many years, also serves as adjunct associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in the College of Engineering. A partial listing of the research projects he has assisted includes the fields of medical imaging, computational fluid dynamics, bioinformatics, computational chemistry and physics, and nanotechnology.

Currently, he continues to assist UI faculty in their high-performance, computing-related research projects, guided by his organizational mission. "The Academic Technologies mission is to support the use of cutting-edge technology in teaching, learning and research at the University of Iowa," said Molly Langstaff, ITS director of academic technologies. "Jun's contribution is one of our many templates to assist the faculty's success."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,