The AARNet network is key to underpinning infrastructure for the University of Wollongong (UOW)’s new Molecular Horizons Research Facility, where powerful microscopes, data mining and machine learning enable scientists to investigate the inner workings of living tissue at the molecular level.
UOW’s Molecular Horizons facility is a state-of-the-art life sciences research facility, purpose built and equipped with advanced technologies to help scientists solve some of the world’s biggest health and medical challenges. These challenges include finding cancer cures, developing new antibiotics and anti-viral agents, and reversing Alzheimer’s disease.
To enable this critical research, the IT team collaborated with the research team to understand their needs. UOW has invested in a suite of revolutionary technologies, including purchasing two of Australia’s most powerful biological cryogenic electron microscopes: a Talos Arctica and a Titan Krios. These atomic resolution microscopes with ultra-sensitive cameras that can detect single electrons are used for reconstructing 3D images via Cryogenic Electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM), showing the structures of molecules at atomic detail, revealing the secrets of how our cells respond to diseases and treatments.
The delivery of the Facility involved deploying high-speed 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) connections over the AARNet network to the microscopes and the associated data storage and processing equipment, both on and off campus. High performance computing (HPC) is required for processing and analysis of the images captured by the microscopes.
Data is transferred over the AARNet network to on-campus HPC for real-time analysis, and to the Multi-modal Australian ScienceS Imaging and Visualisation Environment (MASSIVE), Australia’s specialised HPC research facility located at Monash University in Melbourne, for intensive image processing, analysis and visualisation. The deployment of Software Defined Networking technology ensures these huge data sets are delivered efficiently, securely and at the speed required whether on or off campus.
Fiona Rankin, UOW’s Director of Information Management and Technology Services, says the AARNet network is fundamental to enabling research at the Molecular Horizons facility.
“Big data needs a big network and AARNet enables us to efficiently and reliably move the ever-increasing volumes of research data this new Facility produces around. This is about removing technical barriers to discovery for researchers, and ultimately saving lives.”
Image caption: A preliminary 3D cryo-EM structure of a bacteriophage (bacterial virus) protein reconstructed at Molecular Horizons in Dr Tolun’s research group by his undergraduate student Andrew Worth, shown on one of the EM images used for reconstructing this 3D macromolecular structure.