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Research, Relevance Reaffirmed at DSSC Spring Review

April 3, 2009

Nearly 100 members of academia and industry gathered in Roberts Engineering Hall at Carnegie Mellon University on March 24 for the Data Storage Systems Center's (DSSC) Spring Technical Review. Held twice each year, the center's technical reviews provide an opportunity for the DSSC to showcase its research for the industry it serves through faculty and student presentations, poster sessions, and meetings with corporate affiliates.

Since its inception 26 years ago, the DSSC has conducted leading-edge interdisciplinary research to help support and expand the ever-changing data storage industry. While its primary mission is to prepare students for work in the information storage industry or research careers in academia or the government, the center also works closely with industrial partners to define projects that will take data storage further. It also provides leadership in developing novel technologies for future hard disk drives. The DSSC's semiannual reviews, held in March and September, allow industry and academia to come together, discuss current research, and examine trends for future data storage technologies.

Acting on advice from its Advisory Board, which comprises members of the DSSC's sponsoring industrial affiliates, the DSSC condensed the review to one day this spring instead of the two days it's been in the past. In that day, however, attendees received highlights of all major research thrusts in the center, along with presentations from both students and faculty on the center's most relevant research results from the past six months. Visitors also had ample time to view nearly 40 student posters, speak informally with students and faculty about current and future research, and provide feedback to the center about its research and relevance to industry.

"We received overwhelmingly positive feedback at this review, on both the condensed one-day format and the innovative research the center continues to perform," said DSSC Director and ABB Professor of Engineering Jimmy Zhu. "The key to the DSSC's success has always been — and will continue to be — our close interaction with industry. Through the relationships we have with our sponsors and the input we receive from them, we can tailor our research and work on projects that offer the most scientific and industrial impact. In turn, we provide our sponsors with an academic perspective that helps generate creative new ideas to solve tomorrow's data storage problems."

The review began with a "State of the DSSC" address from Zhu, who noted that the center recently marked its 25th anniversary. He highlighted the center's major accomplishments since its founding in 1983, including the broad impact the DSSC's research and more than 200 PhD graduates have made in the hard disk drive industry. He also reassured attendees that despite the global economic crisis, the DSSC is still thriving and will continue to do so in the future.

That message was underscored by Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon, who addressed the crowd after a morning of technical talks on media, heads, memory, channels, and mechanics, servos and tribology research. After thanking everyone for attending, he noted that while today's economic woes have impacted Carnegie Mellon, they will not hamper the university — or the DSSC.

"Even while we're making cuts and trimming things where we can, we're moving ahead in key strategic areas," Cohon said. "We're not in any way slowing down in our progress in those highly selected areas. One of those is the DSSC. This is a long-standing area of excellence at this university. The president of Carnegie Mellon knows how important the DSSC is to you, to industry, and it's just as important to us. So you have my commitment that the DSSC is going to remain strong."

Cohon lauded Zhu and DSSC Associate Director Jim Bain's plans to perform individual project reviews that will assess the relevance of all DSSC research. He also praised the center's leadership role in initiating conversations with industry to generate a roadmap for data storage technology.

"We believe that here at the center we're in a uniquely advantageous and significant position for the industry, not only in terms of the research that we do, but in understanding the industry in its entire breadth and in all of its challenges, probably better than anybody else," Cohon said. "We want to use that for the benefit of the industry, and I endorse strongly ... the idea of creating a technology roadmap for the sector.

"So we're strong," he said. "We intend to remain strong. We are strong because of your support. And we want to do more for the sector."

To view a video of President Cohon's complete address, click here. For continually updated news about the DSSC, visit www.dssc.ece.cmu.edu.

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