The building for Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS). The program just received a $6.3 million anonymous donation along with a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. EMMA HARRIS/STATESMAN FILE


The Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS) at Stony Brook University received a $6.3 million anonymous donation in early August that will advance data-driven research for the department. They also received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will enable researchers nationwide to test future supercomputing technologies.

According to the IACS website, the department’s vision is “to establish Stony Brook University at the forefront of data and computing in science and engineering by advancing vibrant interdisciplinary research and education programs.” 

“A very accomplished person looked at the impact of our institute over the past six years and at our plans for the future, and decided to double down on the original multi-million dollar investment,” Robert Harrison, Ph.D. Director of the IACS, said, referring to the anonymous donation. 

He said that he is excited for the department’s future with key stakeholders, including the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the milestones they will be able to achieve. “The donation will take the IACS to the next level in terms of research growth and student success, and will have campus-wide impact,” he said. 

The IACS was established in 2012 and began with an original $10 million donation from the same anonymous source that just donated $6.3 million, according to Lynn Allopenna, administrative director of IACS. That original donation was matched by the Simons Foundation, an organization that supports scientific research. This new donation will help expand research excellence, sustain the IACS with the hiring of additional staff and serve as seed money for engagement initiatives, Jennifer McCauley, Educational Program Manager at the IACS, said.

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The money will also be used to continue and make different aspects of the STRIDE program available to all IACS students, a program that provides STEM graduate students with a range of interdisciplinary skills aimed at facilitating communication, by expanding opportunities offered through the program.  

Another use of the donation is to support old and new staff members, as the new funds have already allowed IACS to promote some staff members, such as McCauley, who was promoted from STRIDE Program Director to Educational Program Manager at the IACS. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to grow in my new role thanks to the generosity of our donors,” she said. 

While seeking donations, the IACS sent out requests to donors, which outlined various initiatives. These initiatives included improving the IACS by expanding and advancing department programs. 

“The largest part of the funds will be used to generate new, external Postdoctoral and Graduate Student Fellowships, which will help IACS increase the level of talent and skill we can attract to SBU,” Allopenna said.

Those fellowships would be competitive for the same caliber of applicants who would apply for the National Science Foundation or the Department of Energy fellowship opportunities.

“We want to see our multidisciplinary research programs expand and grow, and to see our students thrive and head off to successful careers,” Allopenna added. 

The donation, according to McCauley, will create sabbatical opportunities for visiting scholars in addition to other outreach programs, such as those with local high school students. With the new donation, the IACS hopes to provide more outreach opportunities for underrepresented groups, including minorities and women. 

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“I was personally amazed, delighted and very excited at this new and very significant gift from our original donor,” Harrison said. “It is a huge pat on the back for our staff, faculty, and students.”

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