Media Advisory: Young Scientists Harness UB's Computing Power to Map Cancer Clusters

Release Date: July 5, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- High school scientists who programmed University at Buffalo computers to study regional cancer rates will share the results of their work on Friday, July 6 at UB.

The presentations, part of an annual summer computing workshop, will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Zebro Room of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at 701 Ellicott Street in Buffalo.

The students, who will present digital maps of cancer clusters in Western New York, will be joined by their families and UB scientists. Tours of UB's supercomputing facility, the Center for Computational Research, will follow.

The research on cancer rates is part of UB's Eric Pitman Annual Summer Workshop in Computational Science, a two-week program that introduces about a dozen high school students to the use of computer modeling and simulation to solve important problems in science and engineering.

Through this year's program, participants:

- Toured research facilities at UB and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute

- Visited Roswell Park Cancer Institute to view a gamma knife and a linear accelerator, radiotherapy tools that use computational techniques to calculate the ideal beam intensities for different patients

- Took part in a hands-on learning activity that demonstrated how a process called optimization enables global positioning systems (GPS) to determine an object's location

- Learned new computer programming languages

- Programmed UB computers to hunt for unusual patterns in cancer rates in six Western New York counties: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming

Scientists who worked closely with the students included Alisa Neeman, a scientific programmer at CCR who oversaw the project examining cancer rates. Daryl Nazareth, an assistant professor and medical physicist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, organized the GPS exercise.

UB's Center for Computational Research has hosted the workshop every year since 1999. Since 2007, it has been held in honor of Eric Pitman, who was a freshman at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute when he passed away in 2007 after a brief illness.

"The workshop interests kids in science and stokes their imaginations by showing them some of the exciting things that are happening in Western New York," said Bruce Pitman, dean of UB's College of Arts and Sciences and Eric Pitman's father. "It lets them know that there are opportunities here for great careers in science."

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