One such area is the exciting interface between big data, biology, and computing. The Mehta Foundation, finding IIT Madras to be an ideal place for fostering excellence in teaching, research and innovation, had already funded the building which houses the Biotechnology department. Now, there will also be a Mehta Foundation Chair, to be occupied by Prof. Ashok Venkitaraman of the University of Cambridge. He would be leading the Interdisciplinary Initiative on Biological Systems Engineering (IBSE), where the immediate focus would be on studying specific forms of cancer, aided by the setting up of the cancer tissue bank in the Biotechnology department.
The research at both the CCBR and IBSE would require powerful supercomputers to crunch terabytes of data. In addition to the Virgo Cluster – which, in 2012, was ranked the fastest and the most energy efficient supercomputer cluster in an academic institution in India – a new computing facility specifically for data analytics will be set up, as part of an interdisciplinary Centre for Data Sciences.
“There’s just so much data out there already. It’s waiting for an engineer to come up with a new perspective to look at it,” says Dr. Karthik Raman of the Biotechnology department, who will be involved with IBSE.