Norwegian-American collaboration educates the next generation of researchers in computational science

The Norwegian Government has allocated an annual grant of NOK 10 million to formalise the education of ICT graduates, in collaboration with the best research environments in the world.

A world-class international collaborative education project can now become reality. A joint effort by Simula Research Laboratory (Simula), the University of Oslo (UiO) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is making it possible to offer a unique research and education programme. For more than a decade, UCSD has been one of the highest ranked universities in the world, consistently placing in the top 15 of the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). The 2015 Norwegian National Budget states: “A formal academic collaboration of high international quality is strategically important for the institutions and to put Norway in a position to compete internationally. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Simula Research Laboratory (Simula) are both ranked as global leaders within the field of ICT. The University of Oslo, Simula and UCSD already have a computer science collaboration within the fields of earth science and life science. The Ministry proposes a grant of NOK 10 million to further develop the established educational and research collaboration between these institutions.”[1]

Managing Director of Simula, Professor Aslak Tveito, is very pleased that the funding is now in place. “Simula has had a strong research collaboration with UCSD for several years, and recently we have expanded our efforts to include education. This funding will enable us to further develop our collaboration and allow us to offer high quality course of studies to more PhD candidates,” says Tveito.

The University of Oslo, Simula and UCSD have long discussed the possibility of a more formalised educational collaboration, with several delegations visiting both California and Oslo. The most recent meeting took place in February this year, when Morten Dæhlen (Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, UiO), Aslak Tveito (Managing Director of Simula Research Laboratory), and Molly M. Maleckar (Director of Simula School of Research and Innovation) visited UCSD to meet with university leadership.

 

The core of the collaboration, which focuses on computational science applications for biology and earth science, will be a joint doctoral programme designed for 15 students, with advisory responsibilities shared between UiO/Simula and UCSD. These students will conduct research on topics that will require close ties between the unique expertise at both the Norwegian and the American institutions. The students will be mobile and will help contribute to an effective and strong transatlantic partnership that underpins Norway’s North American collaboration objectives. Upon completion of the programme, students will be highly attractive candidates for positions in knowledge-based industries and in academia, both in Norway and internationally.

The collaboration will be managed by a steering committee composed of equal numbers of representatives from UiO and Simula. This committee will receive input on academic content from a scientific advisory board composed of members from all three institutions. The Simula School of Research and Innovation (SSRI), a UiO accredited research institute, will be responsible for managing the project. Research fellowships associated with the collaboration will be divided equally between UiO and Simula, but under the umbrella of a joint administration and organisation, which will create a separate identity for the initiative.

An international summer school in computational biology was offered this summer and is a good example of the unique opportunities that arise when these three institutions work together. Twelve young students were given the opportunity to learn advanced computational cardiac modelling, a field in which the partners have worked closely since 2001.

“As one of the world’s leading universities in the fields of medicine and bioengineering, UCSD is a perfect match for the computational expertise at UiO and Simula,” says Dr Molly M. Maleckar, Director of Simula’s education activities. She was responsible for this first international summer school, which brought together students from Norway, the USA, Denmark, Germany and Italy. “We connected students from different academic backgrounds. After two weeks of intensive training at Fornebu, Oslo in June, they used the summer to collaborate on in-depth projects focused on current challenges in cardiac research. The summer school concluded on the UCSD campus in California, where participants presented their results for top researchers in the field,” tells Maleckar.

“My colleagues and I at UC San Diego are delighted by this announcement from the Ministry of Research and Education and looking forward to expanding and intensifying our research and education collaborations with faculty and students from Simula and UiO. This opportunity for our students and faculty to work side by side with the top Norwegian scientists and students will lead to new solutions, discoveries and technologies in biomedicine, engineering and computer sciences,” says Professor Andrew McCulloch who directs UCSD’s Cardiac Mechanics Research Group.

This year’s summer school was a pilot programme for joint courses, which can now be included in the formal collaboration between UiO, Simula and UCSD. Students from the University of Oslo who participated in the summer school programme can already use the course as an approved component of their studies. “The proposal for a long-term, formalised collaboration with UCSD is firmly anchored in national and institutional objectives aimed at making Norwegian research a global leader, and it has attracted great interest,” says the Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at UiO, Morten Dæhlen. “We are very pleased to see that the government is prioritising this project – this is definitely an initiative that supports the government’s ambitions for Norwegian research and education. This is an interesting pilot programme for UiO, but our ambition goes even further. We aim to establish similar partnerships with other world-class institutions,” he adds.

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Contact Simula: Molly Maleckar, Director of Simula School of Research and Innovation

E-mail: mmaleck@simula.no

 

Contact UiO: Dean Morten Dæhlen

E-mail: morten.dahlen@mn.uio.no

 

Contact UCSD: Professor Andrew McCulloch

E-mail: amcculloch@eng.ucsd.edu


[1] Norwegian National Budget 2015, proposition from the Ministry of Education and Research, p. 159.

Photo: Karl Braanaas
Pictured: Bente Thorsen (FrP), Kristin Vinje (H), and Professor Aslak Tveito.