Early success stories

Last updated: August 16, 2022

Several researchers at the UW have found value and success by migrating their work to the cloud. Here are some of their stories.

Understanding what’s happening to Arctic lakes may help us save them

Not long ago, on a cool September day deep in Alaska’s Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, a floatplane dropped Catherine Kuhn and a team of scientists near a cabin studded with nails to keep curious grizzly and black bears at bay.

But hungry bears and blood-sucking mosquitoes were not her concern as Kuhn set out to collect water samples and tally other field measurements on the shores of a large shallow lake.

For Kuhn, a Ph.D. candidate in the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the primary focus was on the lake’s color. As a member of Associate Professor David Butman’s Ecosystem Biogeochemistry Group, she was seeking to discover what the shallow waters in front of her, and the millions like it in the Arctic Circle region, might reveal about carbon cycling and climate change.

Troubled Waters

Immune response research hints at answers to fighting deadly coronavirus

When a new and deadly coronavirus began to sweep across the world earlier this year, researchers from the UW’s Department of Physics, the University of Hong Kong and other institutions quickly assembled a team to learn how B cells — a central player in adaptive immunity — were engaging this enemy.

The physics of a deadly virus.

UW Grad uses the cloud to build 3-D model to study the human genome

When Timothy Durham looks at the human genome, he sees an encyclopedia of precise instructions that tell approximately 31 trillion cells in the human body how to do their jobs.

Figuring out how cells read and interpret these instructions—and how they can misread them—could help researchers unravel the mysteries of what leads to disease and point to cures. This is a complicated ongoing work being performed by thousands of researchers across the globe. Durham, using the power of cloud computing, is now one of them.

ORCA Transit Data fuels grad student research for social good

Professor Mark Hallenbeck and his team of graduate students analyzed massive amounts of data generated by ORCA smart cards, used by riders to pay for public transportation in the Puget Sound area.

The data had never been deeply studied by transportation agencies before, so the students undertook that task and began by moving the data to an Amazon cloud database service as part of a Data Science for Social Good fellowship program.

Their initial work featured extensive interactivity with the cloud database using the R programming language. The cloud provided the team with the compute power they needed to analyze their massive data sets in a cost effective way, allowing them to scale down once the project was over. The team was able to demonstrate the tremendous potential of this approach to understand use patterns and improve the operation of public transportation in Puget Sound.

See The Seattle Times and GeekWire articles for more information on this project.

iSchool Capstone Project wires
Internet of Things to the Amazon Cloud

The UW Information School (iSchool) capstone projects are designed to provide students with practical experience using emerging technologies, such as cloud computing for research.

A spring 2016 capstone Geo-sensing the supply chain introduced one student team to devices recording and transmitting location and vehicle status for a shipping fleet, an example of the Internet-of-Things. When the project began, data from generated by vehicle tracking devices were not consistently arriving in a cloud database. Fortunately, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solutions Architects stepped in to help, introducing the iSchool student team to the AWS Lambda service on the cloud.

In short order, the data were flowing to a cloud database in an intelligently managed, consistent and reliable manner. The capstone project was a tremendous success and the results and software contributed to the growing knowledge base of cloud solutions.

Forty Neurohackers learn visualization skills from the cloud

Cloud computing resources provided by UW-IT Research Computing were key to team projects conducted at “Neurohackweek,” held at the UW eScience Institute.The five-day event (September 5-9, 2016) was a mix of conference, summer school and hackathon (a short-term design event where programmers and others involved in development collaborate intensively on software projects).

It brought together graduate students, post-docs, faculty and research staff from the U.S., UK and the Netherlands in the fields of Psychology, Neuroscience and Computer Science. UW-IT and eScience will continue to work together to expand and solidify the contributions of cloud computing to research.

Earth science data rains
down from the cloud

UW oceanographer Parker MacCready developed a data system on the Microsoft Azure cloud that helps shellfish growers operate oyster farms. The system includes automated data access (Application Programming Interface or API) and is powered by the Python programming language.The system is openly available and has subsequently been adapted by three research teams to:

  • Provide glacier data for southern Alaska to a collaboration team
  • Manage water resources at locations on four continents
  • Support a NASA study of climate change impact in the Himalayas