(This is the third of a multi-part series exploring how technology enables NIH’s mission.)
The average person may not appreciate just how much data a single molecule produces. Dr. Keir Neuman certainly does.
As a principal investigator for NHLBI’s Laboratory of Single Molecule Biophysics, Neuman and his team use innovative single molecule manipulation and imaging tools to conduct their work. Because of their research, for the first time, we are able to see how individual matrix metalloproteinases degrade heterogeneous collagen fibers in their natural state. By providing an intimate view of this physiological process, critically important basic research is leading the way to a better understanding of diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer.
From his lab in Bldg. 50, Neuman uses a high-powered microscope and a high-resolution camera to capture a linked series of image files or videos. These video files are not your average Netflix home movies. Understanding the dynamic movements of individual enzymes requires scientists to capture 100 frames per second, or more than three times that of the high definition television in your home.
As a principal investigator for NHLBI’s Laboratory of Single Molecule Biophysics, Dr. Keir Neuman uses innovative single molecule manipulation and imaging tools.
From his lab in Bldg. 50 Neuman uses a high-powered microscope and a high-resolution camera to capture a linked series of image files or videos.
Neuman estimates about 60 GB of data in the form of video files are produced in a single day of experiments. After these videos are captured, the data files are transferred to a shared storage environment located in Bldg. 12. These data files are later accessed by his research team for analysis.
Before last September, transferring this data on the NIH network was no small feat.
“Compressing our files for upload is not an option, like it might be for pictures on your digital camera,” said Neuman, referring to his team’s dependence on reviewing raw image files. “On average, we would spend about 8 hours transmitting data across the network, pulling it up and down from storage.”
In 2013, NIH approved funding to improve the speed, reliability and security of the NIH network. Working in conjunction with the scientific community to understand technology expectations and future needs, the Center for Information Technology proposed a multi-year plan to deliver a modernized network by 2017.
In 2014, the first key piece of infrastructure, or the NIH network core, was upgraded to accommodate 10 times its capacity. According to Andrea Norris, CIT director and NIH chief information officer, the continued focus is to upgrade the connections between the NIH network core and key research facilities where at-capacity or under-performing network connections were inhibiting research.
Neuman says he and his team are seeing results: “What used to take 8 hours to transmit now takes 2 hours. It really changes the way you think about things. Data is easier to upload, easier to download and, ultimately, easier to analyze.”
In addition to facilitating today’s data transfer requirements, the NIH network’s capacity to support newer technologies in the future pleases Neuman.
“Newer cameras, in comparison to the first-generation camera we use, are about 10 times faster,” he said. “As tools and applications advance, more and more data will be produced, transferred and stored. This network configuration will be better equipped to accommodate the demand.”