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Prudhomme to Lead Applied Social Science Efforts

released 05.23.05

Trish Barker
NCSA Public Information Specialist

Longtime NCSA leader takes on new role

CHAMPAIGN, IL — The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) announced today that Thomas I. Prudhomme, previously the leader of the center's cybercommunities projects, will drive efforts to build collaborative relationships with researchers in the applied social sciences over the next year as the Senior Associate Director for Applied Social Sciences.

"The questions I'm eager to address are about the broader impacts of information technology research and development; really getting to the issue of how we translate technology into social benefit," Prudhomme explains. "Researchers and stakeholder organizations in the social sciences have needs that the expert technology developers at NCSA can help them address, needs to manage and mine vast data stores, to visualize complex information, to study how information can help define policy options and support decision making. My goal is to get involved with these communities, to understand their needs, and to collaborate with them in addressing their most critical questions."

"Tom Prudhomme has an outstanding track record in community engagement and in working with new communities at NCSA and throughout his career," says NCSA Director Thom Dunning. "I look forward to the work he will do with social science communities. With Tom to guide them, these communities will be able to use NCSA experts and technologies to solve a whole new set of critical problems."

Prudhomme has collaborated successfully with social science communities in the past. He has worked with the Disability Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since the institute's inception in 2001. As a founding member of DRI's executive advisory committee, Prudhomme was able to build strong relationships with the institute's social science researchers and was able to familiarize himself with their goals and needs. In 2003, he took on the role of senior research scientist with DRI and launched a series of projects that harnessed NCSA's data mining and analytical expertise to address a set of critical problem for the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The SSA has expanded its efforts to assist its beneficiaries in their efforts to transition into the workforce. To that end, the government launched a program called Ticket to Work, which provides beneficiaries with "tickets" that can be redeemed for employment services from various agencies. Based on an analysis of the data collected from the initial 13-state rollout of the project (using NCSA's D2K data mining software), the researchers are developing a model to help determine which of the more than 8 million individuals receiving benefits are most likely to use their "tickets" and participate in the program. In another project, researchers at NCSA are using advanced web crawling techniques coupled with sophisticated modeling to build a tool that will help people with disabilities find available jobs that match their capabilities.

"Tom's leadership has been invaluable. The projects he leads are addressing some of the most important initiatives that SSA is pursuing to remove barriers to employment for persons with disabilities," says Tanya Gallagher, DRI director and dean of the College of Applied Life Studies. "His skills in conceptualizing projects, communicating with various constituencies, and integrating the efforts of individuals across areas of expertise have been critical to the success of the NCSA-DRI relationship. This new position will enable him to devote more time to pursuing these types of cutting-edge social science software applications."

Prudhomme has also been working closely with the environmental engineering community for the past several years to foster the development of CLEANER, the Collaborative Large-scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research. This initiative, funded by the National Science Foundation, aims to bring together environmental scientists and engineers from across the country and to provide them with cyberinfrastructure tools to support collaborative research. Prudhomme was co-principal investigator on one of the twelve CLEANER planning grants awarded nationally.

"Tom has worked hard to engage the environmental community, to listen closely to what their needs and challenges are, and to gain their trust," says Barbara Minsker, director of NCSA's Environmental Engineering, Science, & Hydrology Group and a CLEANER collaborator. "Tom wrote the book on how to do good community engagement."

Prior to his current appointment, Prudhomme served as Senior Associate Director in charge of NCSA's Cybercommunities Division from 2001 to 2005, as the director of the NCSA-administered Technology Research, Education and Commercialization Center (TRECC) from 2000 to 2005, and as the Associate Director of Government Programs for NCSA from 1997 to 1998.

Before joining NCSA in 1997, Prudhomme worked in the private sector, as CEO of MetaQuest, Inc., from 1993 to 1997 and as the director of strategic planning and business development for Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) from 1991 to 1993. Previously he served the University of Illinois' Chicago campus as the associate vice chancellor for sponsored research and technology programs and was responsible for developing new cross-campus research programs and for managing the intellectual property office.

Prudhomme earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from Pomona College in Claremont, California and went on to earn his Ph.D. in biology at McGill University in Montreal. He completed post-doctoral training in systems modeling and analysis in the Systems Ecology Research Group at San Diego State University, and in his early career he studied the effects of global warming on the ecosystems of arctic Alaska.

NCSA™ (National Center for Supercomputing Applications) is a national high-performance computing center that develops and deploys cutting-edge computing, networking and information technologies. Located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, NCSA is funded by the National Science Foundation. Additional support comes from the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, private sector partners and other federal agencies. For more information, see


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