New Computer Complex to Facilitate Research in Informatics

Release Date: October 26, 2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new instructional-technology laboratory complex developed to serve the University at Buffalo School of Informatics is expected to enhance greatly research in neural networking, data representation, decision theory, digital libraries and social networks.

David Penniman, dean of the school, said the complex, which opened earlier this month, was funded by the school and with part of a $200,000 ATT grant. It will be used primarily by the school's faculty and graduate students for research and teaching.

"This is not just one lab, but a complex of informatics laboratories with an impressive array of laboratory resources," he said, "and one of the largest computer classrooms on campus, with the ability to accommodate more than 50 students at individual workstations."

Although an impressive facility, Penniman called it "a work-in-progress," adding that new capabilities will be added, their selection guided by the school's developing research interests.

The complex includes several facilities necessary to the study of the intersection of human communication and information processes, which is the school's focus. They include:

o Informatics lab/computer classroom, the largest on campus, with 50 PC workstations equipped with standard software products, including Microsoft Office

o Networking lab, with five networking groups made up of two servers and three workstations each, reserved for informatics courses that require hands-on networking technologies used in the study and development of different kinds of computer networks

o Mac multimedia lab, which houses eight Macintosh computers; scanning stations with OCR software that converts text to digital signals; digital, still and video cameras, and SPS, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop and communication-specific software -- all of which will be used in digital, animation and video production

o Collaborative lab, a mobile technology classroom consisting of eight laptop computers -- more will follow -- with wireless networking. It will facilitate the study of mediated group interaction (a research interest of some of the school's faculty members and graduate students) and

the use and development of conferencing, social network and other collaborative software used in education and business environments.

The collaborative lab reflects the trend among informatics educators to move away from classroom teaching to employ environments that allow students research flexibility with all of the tools necessary to accomplish their goals.

o Unix lab. Although many Americans and U.S. institutions use Windows and Mac operating systems, the flexible, powerful Unix -- "the Swiss Army knife of the Net" -- is the world's dominant system and the one most familiar to UB's international students. The workstations in this lab employ the Unix operating system.

The complex also houses a cataloging and classification library containing major cataloging/classification reference texts used by students in the school's Department of Library Studies.

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