Russ Miller
UB Distinguished Professor

Dept of Computer Science & Engineering
State University of New York at Buffalo


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Major Results
CI Lab
Personal Info
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Research Results

Dr. Miller's research interests include Parallel Algorithms and Architectures, Computational Crystallography, Cyberinfrastructure, High-Performance Computing, Grid Computing, Computational Geometry, and Image Analysis.

Google Scholar. Dr. Miller has an H-index of 45 and Google Scholar rankings by area of Optimization Algorithms (#1), Parallel Algorithms (#3), Computational Geometry (#10), Crystallography (#22), and Algorithms (#51).

Parallel Algorithms. Dr. Miller and colleagues (most notably, Prof. Quentin F. Stout, U. Mich), developed a cadre of efficient and optimal computational paradigms, solution strategies, and data movement operations for a wide variety of parallel architectures, including the mesh, pyramid, hypercube, and PRAM, as well as innovative architectures, such as the reconfigurable mesh (mesh with reconfigurable bus) that they introduced. Miller has also applied this toolbox of techniques to create efficient and optimal algorithms to solve fundamental problems in areas including, but not limited to, computational geometry, image analysis, graph theory, data movement operations, and NP-hard problems. Impact of this material follows.

  • Several of our papers covering the reconfigurable mesh have been cited 200+ times each, according to Google Scholar.
  • Google Scholar lists more than 14,000 papers that present results for the reconfigurable mesh.
  • Seminal papers of ours covering pyramid computer algorithms have been cited 100+ times each.
  • Major papers of ours covering mesh algorithms and parallel algorithms to solve problems in computational geometry have been cited ~100 times each.
Highlights of this work include the following.
  • We introduced a paradigm of continuously using fewer processors to arrive at faster (often optimal) algorithms. This technique is presented within the context of a divide-and-conquer strategy or an iterative process whereby the number of processors is reduced at each stage of the algorithm by an architecture-dependent amount in order to arrive at an optimal solutions to problems. This notion was in dramatic contrast to the wisdom of the time that focused on keeping as many processors as possible busy in order to arrive at an efficient algorithms.
  • We showed that for a large class of problems, the top of pyramid computer is unnecessary. In fact, we proved that for many problems, a lower bound on the running time of a solution on the pyramid is proportional to the square root of the number of processors on the edge of mesh at the base of the pyramid. This result reverberated in the image processing community, disproving the generally held belief that virtually all image-based problems could be solved in polylogarithmic time on a pyramid computer.
  • We introduced a generic divide-and-conquer paradigm that showed by matching certain characteristics of an architecture to the algorithm, efficient and often optimal, divide-and-conquer solutions could be obtained for a wide set of problems on a large set of parallel architectures.
  • We introduced fundamental, architecture independent, data movement operations that could be ported to a wide variety of parallel architectures and could then be used in conjunction with some of our algorithmic strategies as part of an extensive toolkit to efficiently solve higher-level problems.
  • We (including V.K. Prasanna Kumar, USC), and simultaneously several other groups, introduced a reconfigurable mesh (mesh with reconfigurable bus) that would allow the mesh connections to be enabled or disabled on-the-fly and assumed that every connected set of processors was connected via a bus rather than a series of mesh links. We were able to show that this model was actually more powerful than the shared-memory PRAM model for certain problems, disproving a generally held belief of the time that the PRAM was the most powerful parallel model of computation.

Highlights of algorithms for the various models include the following.

  • Mesh: We introduced asymptotically optimal data movement operations and paradigms. We used these procedures to introduce asymptotically optimal solutions to fundamental problems in areas that included computational geometry, image analysis, and graph theory.
  • Pyramid: We introduced asymptotically efficient/optimal data movement operations. We used these operations to introduce asymptotically optimal solutions to fundamental problems in areas that included graph theory and image analysis.
  • Hypercube: We introduced asymptotically efficient (and often optimal) solutions to fundamental problems in areas that included computational geometry, image analysis and graph theory.
  • PRAM: We provided asymptotically optimal solutions to problems in computational geometry.
  • Reconfigurable Mesh: We introduced asymptotically optimal data movement operations. We used these data movement operations to provide asymptotically optimal algorithms for fundamental problems involving graphs and images.
  • Fixed Degree Network: We introduced the first asymptotically optimal algorithm to solve the convex hull problem for planar point input on a fixed degree network (a modified AKS network).
From the perspective of problem domains, we were able to utilize our cadre of efficient operations and paradigms to devise efficient (and often optimal) solutions as follows.
  • Computational Geometry: We introduced efficient solutions to fundamental problems in computational geometry for the mesh, hypercube, and PRAM.
  • Image Processing: We introduced efficient solutions to fundamental problems in image processing for the mesh, hypercube, pyramid, and reconfigurable mesh.
  • Graph Theory: We introduced efficient solutions to fundamental problems in graph theory for the mesh, pyramid, hypercube and reconfigurable mesh.

Molecular Structure Determination. Dr. Miller worked on a large project in direct methods of crystal structure determination with a world-class group of scientists at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, including Nobel Laureate Dr. Herbert A. Hauptman, Dr. George DeTitta, and Dr. Charles M. Weeks.

This project can be held up as an exemplar of computational science and engineering. That is, the project involved a computer scientist (Miller), working closely with a mathematician (Hauptman), as well as theoretical and experimental scientists in a disciplinary area (structural biologists DeTitta and Weeks). The result of this project was the Shake-and-Bake algorithm, the SnB program, optimization strategies, and worldwide community codes based on Shake-and-Bake.

Our Shake-and-Bake algorithm and SnB computer program have increased by several orders of magnitude the size of molecular structures that can be solved by a direct methods approach. Further, our algorithm has also been shown to be applicable to much larger proteins, which were never considered to be candidates for a direct methods attack. This project has had significant impact world-wide.

  • Our Shake-and-Bake algorithm was listed on the IEEE Poster "Top Algorithms of the 20th Century".
  • Approximately 10,000 users worldwide have downloaded direct-methods programs based on our Shake-and-Bake algorithm.
  • A paper describing our Shake-and-Bake breakthrough has been cited ~60,000 times, according to Google Scholar.
  • Our initial set of papers introducing Shake-and-Bake have been cited 300+ times each.
Highlights of this project include the following.
  • Minimal Principle: The development of the minimal principle, which serves as the critical target function for optimization.
  • Design, Analysis, and Implementation: The design, analysis, implementation, refinement, and deployment of the Shake-and-Bake method of structure determination in accessible computer programs that run efficiently over a wide-variety of platforms.
    • Solution to The Phase Problem: For all intents and purposes, this algorithm "solved" the century-old phase problem of crystallography.
    • Optimization: Our Shake-and-Bake optimization algorithm introduced a new dual-space solution strategy coupled with a new optimization function to solve the phase-problem of crystallography. Previous optimization strategies included the traditional tangent formula coupled with traditional optimization strategies (genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, and so forth).
    • Real-World Outreach: This program has been used to determine numerous critical structures, including vancomycin, the "antibiotic of last resort".
  • Dual-Space Refinement: The development of a cyclical approach that automatically alternates phase refinement in reciprocal space with the imposition of phase constrains in real space until the structure is determined.
  • Parallel Computing: Using parallel computers (e.g., Intel iPSC/2, Intel iPSC/860, TMC CM-2, and TMC CM-5) to provide the compute cycles necessary to experiment with solution strategies that would eventually be employed on a standard PC.
  • Portable Program: Providing an implementation of the solution strategy for a wide variety of parallel and sequential machines.
  • Structure Solutions: The program has been able to solve all structures in appropriate domains provided that reasonable quality data was provided as input.
  • Peer Review Funding: Due to the comprehensive nature of this project, funding was provided by 3 consecutive NIH program-project grants, a variety of NSF grants, as well as foundation and appropriations to support the acquisition of computing resources.

Cyberinfrastructure. The focus of Dr. Miller's Cyberinfrastructure Laboratory is on providing infrastructure necessary to perform high-end simulation and modeling.

  • Grid Deployment: We developed and deployed the ACDC-Grid as an experimental grid. This grid served as a platform for developing an integrated data and compute grid. It also provided a platform for work on a grid monitor, grid portal, node swapping system, predictive scheduling environment, and resource management system. Our follow-on Western New York Grid was designed and deployed as a heterogeneous grid in Western New York. Our work on the Western New York Grid led to the design and deployment of the New York State Grid (NYS Grid), a production level grid based on the OSG software stack. This work was used by Grid3+, Open Science Grid, the IBM NE BioGrid, and served as the cornerstone of a New York State cyberinfrastructure initiative.
  • Grid Monitoring: We developed and deployed a light-weight grid monitoring system on production grids that allowed one to asses the health and status of a grid.
  • Predictive Scheduling: We designed and installed an efficient predictive scheduler on experimental grids. Our scheduler maintained a database of historical jobs to profile user/group/package usage.
  • Data Migration: We developed and deployed a data migration tool on experimental grids that allows for the transparent migration of data between various resources on a grid.
  • Dynamic Resource Allocation: We designed, developed, and installed a dynamic resource allocation tool on a variety of grids.
  • Grid-Enabling Template: We developed and deployed a grid-enabling template framework that dramatically reduced the time to migrate software to a grid.
  • Management Tools: We developed and deployed a management tool for heterogeneous grids.
  • Software Migration: We migrated numerous software packages to a variety of grids, including applications in areas of structural biology, bioinformatics, ground water modeling, earthquake engineering, and computational chemistry, to name a few.

Center for Computational Research (CCR). Following his vision that in the 21st century, leading academic institutions would i) embrace the digital data-driven society that we live in and ii) work to empower their students to compete in our knowledge-based economy, Dr. Miller founded the Center for Computational Research (CCR) at SUNY-Buffalo. During his tenure as (Founding) Director from 1998-2006, CCR was continuously ranked as one of the leading supercomputing centers worldwide, earning Miller the following recognition.

  • HPC Wire's Top People and Organizations to Watch, 2003.
  • SGI Innovator Award, one of six in the inaugural class, 2003.
  • Best Practices Award, Bio-IT World, 2003.
  • Dell Center in Research Excellence, Michael Dell presented the first such award personally in Buffalo.
Typically, CCR supported hundreds of projects simultaneously from a variety of local and national colleges, universities, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and the private sector. Miller's vision to 1) enable Research and Scholarship, 2) provide Education, Outreach, and Training, and 3) affect Technology Transfer to local industry was successfully served by CCR during his tenure.

Outreach (CCR): One key to building a successful center was Miller's ability to work with elected officials, local, regional, and national leaders, as well as a wide variety of vendors including Dell, SGI, IBM, EMC, and HP, to name a few. In fact, Miller's efforts with Dell culminated with the installation of the first Dell cluster to make the top500 list (#22). Miller also worked with companies in order to generate animated videos for MTV, create traffic accident reconstructions, create traffic flow simulations, and generate medical and scientific visualizations. This work was performed with a variety of local, regional, and national companies and government agencies.

More details on Miller's contributions to CCR can be found on his Biography page.

Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics. The success of CCR and Miller's ability to work with elected officials were key to establishing the $290M New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, a major economic driver for Western New York. In fact, in establishing the Center of Excellence in January of 2001, New York State Gov. George E. Pataki stated that "This Center [of Excellence in Bioinformatics] will, through the University of Buffalo's Center for Computational Research, create academic and industrial partnerships...."

Education, Outreach, and Training (EOT). Prof. Miller has been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses since 1981. He has given numerous presentations to elected officials, defense contractors, scout troops, high-school students, prospective students and student-athletes, and citizens concerned with plans for construction in the community. He has produced reports on parallel processing education, organized panel discussions on EOT, serves on the editorial board of a journal devoted to teaching and case studies, and has introduced approximately 10 courses in areas involving cyberinfrastructure, high-end computing, and computational science. Under Miller's direction, workshops in computational science and high-end computing have been offered for high-school teachers, a year-long bioinformatics course has been developed and offered to high-school students, and training sessions in multiprocessor computing has been offered to faculty, students, and staff from area colleges and organizations. Dr. Miller was instrumental in the formation of the National Science Foundation EOT-PACI program and set up similar programs locally. Finally, Miller was accessible to the media, being quoted in some 1500 news articles and appearing with regularity on television and radio.

Funding. Including personal peer reviewed funding, appropriations, contracts, and additional funds that CCR enabled during his tenure as Director, Dr. Miller has helped bring in approximately $0.5 billion dollars to Western New York.

Additional Information. Additional information is available on the Biography page of this web site.