Lawrence Livermore signs agreement to work with Center for Urban Science and Progress

April 9, 2013

Lawrence Livermore signs agreement to work with Center for Urban Science and Progress

Stephen P Wampler,, 925-423-3107
In the future, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and New York University hope to take on some of the pressing problems in major urban centers, such as transportation and clean air.

These are some of the subjects of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by LLNL and New York University on behalf of the Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Science and Progress .

Founded about a year ago, CUSP is a public-private research center that uses New York City as its laboratory and classroom in an effort to help cities become more productive and livable. "The digital age has produced an incredible ability to collect, store and analyze data," said Steven Koonin, the director of CUSP who is a former Under Secretary of Energy for science.

"Bringing this 'big data' to bear on societal problems -- from clean air to transportation to health care -- is at the heart of CUSP and a path to improvement of both existing and newly built cities," Koonin said.

LLNL's Nancy Suski, deputy program director for Domestic Security, spearheaded the development of the MOU and has been working with CUSP since June. She echoed Koonin, saying the collaborations with CUSP will be about cities and "big data."

"It's driven by the fact that the world's population is migrating to urban centers," Suski said. "Currently, about 80 percent of the population in the United States lives in cities. The idea is: how can you make cities safer, more efficient, more secure and improve the quality of life for their inhabitants?"

Having the capability to better understand cities through the data that is produced is a "monumental task" in Suski's view.

"That's where the Laboratory comes in," she said. "To better understand the performance of urban systems, and more importantly, to predict their performance is going to require modeling and simulation at the scale and speed of the Lab's high performance computing resources."

For example, LLNL's Jim Brase, deputy associate director for Computation , has been working with a New York University researcher on the number one complaint of New York City residents -- noise.

Their ultimate goal is to use the information they obtain to attempt to figure out ways to reduce the problem.

"We're looking at how to measure the urban noise field and that will involve traditional sensors, and New York University students will even use apps on their cell phones," Brase said. "We want to try to understand the sources of noise and their impacts on people."

New York City has a huge database of non-emergency calls and an extensive amount of information about public works, fire and police responses.

"By correlating the non-emergency calls with other city service calls, you can begin to develop a better understanding of the problem and take corrective action," Suski said.

"Problems like these give LLNL researchers an opportunity to use our extensive data science and network analysis capabilities to improve the quality of life for citizens who live and work in urban centers."

The MOU provides opportunities for LLNL to host several CUSP researchers through co-op programs, summer student internships and fellowships. Lab employees also will have the chance to take sabbaticals or offer guest lectures at CUSP.

Among the academic institutions that have partnered with CUSP are Carnegie Mellon University, City University of New York, the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai), the University of Toronto and the University of Warwick.

The center's industrial partners include IBM, Cisco, Siemens, Con Edison, National Grid and Xerox, among others.

In addition to its partnership with LLNL, CUSP also has concluded agreements to work with three other Department of Energy national laboratories -- Brookhaven, Los Alamos and Sandia.