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Fordham University Guest Blogger: Keeping iD Green

instructor helping student at computer tech camp

You know you are at iD Tech Camps when kids are getting excited about “protein folding”.

As a product of the Quaker education model, the act of incorporating service into the work/school day is a very familiar habit for me. At the Quaker school I attended, there was actually a five hour block built into our work week in which students could volunteer with different organizations, depending on the student’s interest. This was not only beneficial to the institutions we supported, but also served as a valuable hands-on opportunity for students to learn outside of the classroom walls.

So, as a believer in compulsory service, I’m delighted that iD Tech Camps encourages a variety of service related projects, the only difference really being terminology, here it’s “iD Greening”. I would like to take this opportunity to describe a service project that I’m very excited to have brought to iD Fordham, hopefully setting a trend for all iD’s to follow.

The project is called “protein folding” and I’ve been at it for about two years. On a regular schedule, my computer downloads a set of data, in my computers idle time (when a screen saver normally runs) my computer analyses that data and then reports it findings. All this information is passed to and from and organization called “Rosetta@Home” (http://boinc.bakerlab.org/rosetta/).

The data it’s analyzing are different amino acid sequences, which are the building blocks of the proteins that carry out virtually all functions of the human body. The amount of computing power which would be required to definitively map all these sequences is virtually infinite; hence, software such as BOINC (http://boinc.berkeley.edu/) allow people to donate their computers idle time to assist in this process.

By now, you are probably wondering what the significance of this data is; it is very significant. By defining potential 3-dimensional protein shapes we can assist in finding cures and treatments for some of the most threatening diseases in our world today. The organizations collaborating with this project are using this data to find potential cures and treatments for:

HIV

Malaria

Cancer

Alzheimer’s

(further research info at http://boinc.bakerlab.org/rosetta/rah_medical_relevance.php)

Members participating in Rosetta@Home are able to track their progress through credits; every set of data the computer crunches awards them credits. Some members even like to get competitive about who can earn the most credits in a period of time. There are two ways to increase the rate at which you earn credit:

1: over clocking your computers processor and/or using a very high end machine

2: combining the processing power of multiple users, all benefiting a single member account

For some time now, I’ve been running an account between my laptop and desktop yet I’ve always wanted an opportunity to deploy BOINC/Rosetta@Home on a much larger scale and harness the computing power of an entire office or even company. Since I started my account two years ago I’ve gained 3500 credits. The account I’ve started at iD Fordham earlier this week, FoldingWithiD, is installed on about 30 machines and will far surpass the personal credits I’ve gained, probably by the end of tomorrow.

The fun part about this project is that BOINC/Rosetta@Home has really cool visualizations; you can actually watch the protein shapes being folded. My overnight students and I had a BOINC/Rosetta@Home install-fest and then enjoyed trancing-out to the trippy visualizations of protein folding on 30 different monitors at once. Prizes were awarded to the students who could install BOINC/Rosetta@Home the fastest. My day students are eager to learn about the cool visualizations that replaced their default screensavers.

I hope that other campus’s follow our lead! We are all able to operate under the same account and the combine computing power of all of iD’s computers would be a dominating force within the folding community. It is also a very cool collaboration for iD as it allows all of iD’s locations to work together on a singular project spanning distance, time zones and potentially every single student’s computer!

To get involved:

1: Install BOINC http://boinc.berkeley.edu/

2: Attach BOINC to the Rosetta@Home project: http://boinc.berkeley.edu/

(optionally)

3: If you are an iD employee, e-mail FoldingWithiD@gmail.com for account info so that we can all fold for the same account and collectively earn credit for iD

iD Tech Camps at Fordham, we salute you!  Way to go!  Keep it up!  Thanks for making iD Tech Camps greener.  We thank you and so does the planet.  Every little bit helps, and you are doing your part!

-Pete