Simon Fraser University

New facility pushes collaborative research to the max

Peter Borwein, 604.291.4376,
Pam Borghardt, 604.268.6989, 604.828.9741,
Carol Thorbes, Media & PR 604.291.3035,

April 8, 2005
Move over creators of Max Headroom, Matrix and Metropolis. What researchers can accomplish at Simon Fraser University's IRMACS Centre rivals the high tech feats of the most memorable futuristic films. The $14 million centre's acronym stands for Interdisciplinary Research in the Mathematical and Computational Sciences. The centre is dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary research among scientists whose primary lab tool is the computer.

“The IRMACS research centre will develop new and improved products and services that will enhance the competitiveness of British Columbia,” says Premier Gordon Campbell. “Our investment in research leads to important innovations that drives our economy, creates jobs and makes this province a great place to do business.”

IRMACS Centre, a newly constructed 2,500 square metre space atop the Applied Sciences Building, has eight labs, five meeting rooms and a presentation theatre seating up to 100 people. All are equipped with easily upgradeable computational, multimedia, Internet and remote conferencing (including satellite) technology. High performance distributed computing and clustering technology and access to WestGrid make the centre unique in western Canada.

“The IRMACS Centre is one of the most technologically sophisticated environments available to researchers in mathematical and computational sciences,” says Minister for Advanced Education Ida Chong. “We are pleased to support a research centre, which in turn, supports so many scientists engaged in leading edge research.”

The centre's reconfigurable rooms and open spaces, and universal access to computers using one account and one sign-on make collaborative research limitless, regardless of geography or discipline. With its wrap-around, high-resolution projection display that gives viewers a virtual 3D experience, the centre's presentation studio can connect researchers worldwide to discuss and manipulate structures in 3D. Plasma computer displays with touch-screen interfaces allow lecture and meeting notes to be captured in real time and later distributed in standard file formats.

“In our labs we have 200 researchers in such diverse areas as genetics, telecommunications and health informatics communicating with colleagues around the world,” explains Peter Borwein, SFU mathematician and executive director of IRMACS.

The facility is funded in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) and by Simon Fraser University.

“The IRMACS Centre is an impressive example of the type of partnerships and collaborations that are essential to ensure Canada's success in the knowledge-based economy,” says Eliot Phillipson, CFI president and CEO. “This new facility will strengthen Canada's capacity to effectively compete locally, nationally, and internationally in the area of applied mathematics research.”

Demonstrations, presentations and tours will give the public and media a taste of what IRMACS Centre can do at an open house to mark its official opening on Friday, April 8. SFU President Michael Stevenson and VP-Research Mario Pinto will make opening remarks. Among the presenters will be IRMACS researchers Fiona Brinkman and Derek Bingham; Richard Crandell, director, Centre for Advanced Computation, Apple Canada; SFU physics professor Mike Vetterli and Dalhousie University computing science professor Jon Borwein. Vetterli and Borwein helped pioneer WestGrid, an ultra high-speed, inter-provincial network with shared computing and multimedia resources.

(electronic photo file available)


The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI's mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other non-profit research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that benefits Canadians.

The BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) provides capital funding for research equipment and facilities for public post-secondary institutions, teaching hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies. To date, the provincial government, under the BCKDF, has approved a total of 431 projects and almost $327 million in funding.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs to more than 20,000 full and part-time students each year. SFU has three campuses. The main campus is in suburban Burnaby, the Harbour Centre campus is situated in the heart of downtown Vancouver and the newest campus is in central Surrey. Maclean's Magazine consistently ranks Simon Fraser University among the top comprehensive institutions in Canada.

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