First Cohort of MSU Cloud Computing Fellows

In November 2019, MSU’s Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research and the IT Services Analytics and Data Solutions group hosted the first cohort of MSU Cloud Computing Fellows. Last year, seventeen doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from different disciplines were selected to participate and presented their research results at the conclusion of this program in May 2020. Over the past academic year, the program provided hands-on support to help MSU doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers transition their work to a cloud computing environment, understand the strengths of different cloud computing providers, and optimize their workflow to maximize scientific yield. 

The program received a lot of positive feedback from the participants. Many of the fellows were impressed by the cost-effective way that cloud computing could provision large storage and compute resources to support their research. One participant, Rachel Domagalski, said she not only learned a new tool that can aid in her work, but even being inexperienced in cloud computing, it immediately improved her research capabilities.  

During the fellowship program, participants took part in a series of 4 in-person workshops. The training helped the participants to better understand the vocabulary related to cloud computing, which was essential in knowing how to find the right resources for their work. Caleb Lucas said that “The lessons led by Ezra [Brooks, from MSU IT Services] were excellent and offered a helpful introduction to Azure specifically, along with a broad overview of [the] considerations regarding cloud computing.” Another participant, Tong Zhou, mentioned that all the training sessions were very useful to his research, especially the session focused on determining which part of the research could be most suitable to be transferred to the cloud.  In addition to the workshops, participants also benefited from networking and discussion with other fellows from a variety of  disciplines across the university. 

While local computing clusters such as ICER’s HPCC are terrific tools, they might not always be accessible to researchers once they graduate. As a consequence, an operational knowledge of cloud computing makes participants more marketable as a scientist.  In addition, cloud computing provides researchers more flexibility in pursuing a wider variety of types of computational research.

ICER’s Director, Professor Brian O’Shea, commented “We’re really delighted at the enthusiasm and engagement shown by our first cohort of Cloud Computing Fellows. They demonstrated that cloud-based computing can be very useful for researchers doing a broad variety of science.” For the next year’s fellowship program, the organizers hope to form small research groups to create more collaboration opportunities among the cohort members. They are also planning to add a larger variety of topics into the workshops that can inspire participants in different cloud computing knowledge levels.