Leveraging supercomputers in chemistry instruction at Mount Vernon Nazarene

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Mar 23, 2022) — 

Luiz Oliveira teaches the foundations of chemistry to undergraduate students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. By participating in Oliveira’s research, which draws on the resources of the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), students gain experience equivalent to completing an extra course in computational chemistry.

Oliveira, an associate professor of chemistry, has a background in physics, chemistry and biophysics. His research explores the interface between biophysics and materials science. The professor and his undergraduate researchers examine how biomolecules and nanomaterials interact, which has implications for nanomedicine, biosensing, nanobioelectronics and bioelectrochemistry. 

When he joined the faculty of MVNU, Oliveira discovered that he was eligible to use $1,000 of OSC resources each year. The researcher quickly learned the benefits of working with the Center, such as the opportunity to use a wide range of software that would be difficult for him to access otherwise, as well as high-level technical support from staff members. 

“I’ve been very surprised at the number of tools that are available and the help provided,” Oliveira said.

OSC also provides a unique educational experience for his undergraduate student researchers, which include two chemistry majors and one biology major. Using OSC’s Open OnDemand software interface, the students can access a virtual Linux terminal directly from their web browsers. They are learning the Python programming language to analyze research results. 

Illustration of chemical structures overlaid on a test tube containing small leaves, held by a rubber-gloved handThe students are gaining valuable skills, regardless of whether they pursue careers in research or in other fields, according to Oliveira.

“Data science is everywhere,” he said. “My hope is that what they are learning can be applied to whatever path they choose.” 

The faculty member is now interested in bringing OSC resources into his classroom so that more students may gain such experience. 

Oliveira also is enthusiastic about encouraging more of his colleagues at Mount Vernon Nazarene University to use OSC. He is the first faculty member from the higher education institution to work with the supercomputer center, and he hopes that others will take advantage of OSC’s resources for research and teaching. 

"If it was not for OSC,” Oliveira said, “I would not be doing research at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.”

Luiz Oliveira webpage

About OSC: The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) addresses the rising computational demands of academic and industrial research communities by providing a robust shared infrastructure and proven expertise in advanced modeling, simulation and analysis. OSC empowers scientists with the services essential to making extraordinary discoveries and innovations, partners with businesses and industry to leverage computational science as a competitive force in the global knowledge economy and leads efforts to equip the workforce with the key technology skills required for 21st century jobs.