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June 12, 2006

Stanford to inaugurate new Center for Computational Earth and Environmental Science on June 20

By Mark Shwartz

Scott McNealy, chairman of the board of directors of Sun Microsystems Inc., and other Silicon Valley leaders will join Stanford President John Hennessy on Tuesday, June 20, at 1:30 p.m., for the dedication of the Stanford Center for Computational Earth and Environmental Science (CEES), an interdisciplinary research program that features a powerful new computing facility for solving complex problems in the geosciences. The two-hour campus event will be held in the Hartley Conference Center of the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building at 397 Panama Mall.

"Our mission is to enhance the capacity for large-scale computational research for Earth and environmental science," says CEES director Jerry M. Harris, professor of geophysics in the School of Earth Sciences. "A driving force for this is the fact that, here at Stanford, we have some of the world's best scientists, and across the street in Silicon Valley are some of the world's best computer designers and builders."

Harris describes the center as a partnership among the School of Earth Sciences, the Stanford Computer Systems Laboratory, government agencies (such as the U.S. Geological Survey) and private industry. To date, founding partner Sun Microsystems of Santa Clara, Calif., has donated approximately $3 million in hardware and cash for the new High Productivity Technical Computing Center (HPTC). Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose has contributed an additional $250,000.

Located on the fourth floor of the Mitchell Building, the HTPC facility is equipped with state-of-the-art Sun computers capable of calculating vast quantities of data that will enable the development of sophisticated models to address complex questions about energy and freshwater resources , natural hazards, climate change, tectonics and other global issues.

"Collaborating with a company like Sun gives us access to software and hardware experts who can help solve problems of interest to Earth and environmental scientists," Harris explains. "Sun, in return, learns more about their computers and how they might be better suited for new niche markets, such as oil and gas exploration. It's computer-driven science and science-driven computer design: We want to engage computer architects to design software and hardware that's better suited for geosciences problems."

Harris will host the June 20 inauguration event, which will begin with brief remarks by Hennessy, McNealy, Pamela Matson, the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences; and Kim Jones, Sun Vice President of Global Education and Research. From 2:15 to 3:30 p.m., CEES researchers will demonstrate four current projects involving seismology, coastal oceans, carbon management and the geohistory of sedimentary basins.

""Interdisciplinary science is really an important aspect of what we're doing," Harris adds. "And underlying interdisciplinary science is computer technology that allows us to make predictions of what may happen in the real world."

To register for the event, contact CEES administrator Claudia Baroni at (650) 723-5002 or

Editor Note:

To register for the event, contact CEES administrator Claudia Baroni at (650) 723-5002 or



Mark Shwartz, News Service: (650) 723-9296,
Claudia Baroni, Center for Computational Earth and Environmental Science: (650) 723 5002,


Jerry Harris, Department of Geophysics: (650) 723-0496,

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