John Owens Receives NAE Grainger Grant

The National Academy of Engineering has awarded a $30,000 Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Education (FOE) grant to John Owens, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Owens and co-PI Tuhin Sahai, of the United Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, CT, will share the grant for their collaborative project, Parallel Matrix Factorization: Toward GPUs in the Data Center.Professor John D. Owens

Owens and Sahai will explore how to develop computational models that enable superior decision-making from large amounts of data. A common real-world example concerns making future recommendations to subscribers of an online movie service, based on their ratings of past titles. Owens and Sahai will construct their algorithms on an emerging graphics processing unit (GPU) that takes a more parallel approach to solving computational problems.

Owens joined the UC Davis College of Engineering faculty in 2003, shortly after obtaining his PhD in the Computer Systems Laboratory at Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering. His research interests cover broad topics in the field of computer systems, and he’s particularly intrigued by parallel computing and projects in graphics hardware/GPGPU computing (general-purpose computing on graphics processing units).

In the spring of 2012, Owens’ efforts were recognized when Nvidia named him a CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) Fellow, joining the ranks of those who have demonstrated the benefits of GPU computing to advance their fields of research, and have been instrumental in introducing GPU computing to their peers. He is one of only 12 CUDA Fellows in the entire world. A few months later, he began a sabbatical at Twitter, where he broadened his research work to include investigations into cloud-based computing, real-time issues, functional programming and the nature of the Web itself.

The Grainger Foundation was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger Inc., which began in 1927 as a Chicago-based wholesale electric motor sales and distribution business. Today, Grainger is a Fortune 500 industrial supply company. Its FOE program includes a U.S. symposium each year, along with a rotating schedule of bilateral meetings of engineers from the United States, Germany, Japan, India, China and the European Union.

Grainger’s FOE engineering grants provide seed funding to U.S.-based FOE participants, to further their pursuit of projects stimulated by the symposia. On March 19, the National Academy of Engineering received a $3 million commitment from the Grainger Foundation, to support the NAE’s Frontiers of Engineering program, which includes the FOE grants.

The National Academy of Engineering’s mission is to advance the nation’s well-being by promoting a vibrant engineering profession, and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology. The NAE is celebrating is 50th anniversary this year.