Institutes and Research Divisions
Division of Computer Research and Technology


The Division of Computer Research and Technology (DCRT) incorporates the power of modern computers into biomedical programs and administrative procedures of NIH by focusing on three primary activities: conducting computational biosciences research developing computer systems and providing computer facilities. In fulfilling these responsibilities, the division:


Important Events in DCRT History

1954--A central data processing facility was established in Office of the Director, NIH, under Dr. Harold Dorn, combining EAM (punched card) equipment and biometric expertise.

1956--The biometric facility became the Biometrics Branch in the new DRS in May the NIH director established a committee on electronic data processing and computers.

1958--NIH installed its first electronic digital computer as an experimental device.

March 8, 1960--The Surgeon General approved establishment of a Computation and Data Processing Branch in DRS.

October 1961--NIH installed its first “second generation” computer.

April 25, 1962--The director, NIH, appointed a steering committee to undertake a comprehensive study of data processing activities at NIH.

April 1963--The NIH steering committee recommended the establishment of a Division of Computer and Information Sciences (subsequently changed to DCRT), including provision for the transfer of the Computation and Data Processing Branch, DRS, to the new organization.

April 16, 1964--The department approved establishment of DCRT.

June 22, 1965--As a result of a joint NBS/NIH study of NIH data processing requirements, a contract was awarded for conversion of the NIH computer system from second- to third-generation equipment.

April 1, 1966--The first components of the third-generation computer system were installed.

January 1, 1967--DCRT was reorganized with the establishment of the Laboratory of Applied Studies, the Computer Systems Laboratory and the Physical Sciences Laboratory in addition to the Computation and Data Processing Branch.

December 20, 1968--The Computation and Data Processing Branch was subdivided into the Computer Center Branch and the Data Management Branch.

April 1969--First time-sharing computers went into service for the NIH research community.

June 1969--Minicomputers designed by DCRT were first installed in NIH laboratories.

July 1974--The Laboratory of Statistical and Mathematical Methodology was established.

May 31, 1979--An interagency agreement between HEW and GSA established the general-purpose portion of the NIH Central Computer Utility at DCRT as a Federal Data Processing Center.

April 1983--The Personal Workstation Project (PWP) was established to determine how effectively personal computers could be used at NIH.

May 1984--PWP became the Personal Workstation Office (PWO), established to guide and support the use of personal computers throughout NIH.

September 9, 1988--The Personal Computing Branch was established from the Personal Workstation Office.

1988--The Convex Unix-based superminicomputer was installed, and the network task group was created.

1990--Extensive networking (NIHnet) was installed at NIH, providing connectivity for 60 local area networks.

1991--The IPSC massively parallel supercomputer with 128 nodes was installed, giving the division a leadership role in biomedical applications for the high performance computing and communications initiative. An image processing unit was created and a series of peer reviews of division programs was initiated and carried out.

1992--DCRT developed its own strategic plan to chart the division’s course for the next 5 years. In addition, the Network Systems Branch was formed to provide united leadership for a primary division activity. DCRT also opened its Scientific Computing Resource Center, a walk-in facility for NIH personnel that supports scientific computing.

January 1993--The division was reorganized, with the establishment of the Office of Computational Biosciences, including the Computational Biosciences and Engineering Laboratory, the Laboratory of Structural Biology, and the Physical Sciences Laboratory and the Office of Computing Resources and Services, including the Networks Systems Branch, Computing Facilities Branch, Distributed Systems Branch, Customer Services Branch, Information Systems Branch, and the Scientific Computing Resource Center. NIHnet expanded to include 224 local area networks with 105 on-campus LANs connected via high-speed fiber backbone.

January 1994--DCRT celebrated its 30th anniversary.

February 1994--Technical Assistance and Support Center (TASC) was inaugurated to help customers obtain computer-related information.

May 1995--Internet Expo Day helped NIH staffers to discover the World Wide Web and its enormous potential to disseminate and exchange information.

June 1996--DCRT's Computer Center was designated as a DHHS data center consolidation site.

July 1996--The NIH Data Warehouse (formerly known as ADBIS) was introduced to NIH. The warehouse obtains data from several sources and provides a one-stop-shop graphical user interface to NIH administrative and accounting information.

November 1996--A 96-node IBM SP highly parallel supercomputer--one of the world's most powerful--was introduced to support NIH high-performance scientific computing requirements.

February 1997--DCRT's IBM RS/6000 SP highly parallel supercomputer was expanded from 56 to 94 nodes. Because the newer nodes are more powerful, the expansion more than doubled support for NIH high-performance scientific computing needs.

The division inaugurated Secure Internet-Linked (SILK) technology to provide Web access to enterprise data.

March 1997--DCRT modernized and improved the cost effectiveness of the NIH Computer Center by installing new parallel complimentary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processors to replace traditional mainframes. The division also enhanced the enterprise computing environment by adding a UNIX-based open system server.

May 1997--The division sponsored a Web Information Day--"Tools for the Web, the Web as a Tool." Open to NIH employees, the all-day program featured seminars and demos that focused on effective Web use.

June 1997--SILK was expanded to let users implement their own customized servers.

July 1997--DCRT completed consolidation of the data center operated by the Program Support Center Information Technology Service into the NIH Computer Center.

September 1997--Consolidation was completed of the Administration for Children and Families National Computer Center into the NIH Computer Facility.


Director's of DCRT

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Arnold W. Pratt1920August 1966May 1990
David RodbardJuly 6, 1941November 1990April 1996
William L. Risso (Actg)October 26, 1944April 1996.........................

Biographical Sketch of DCRT Director

William L. Risso (Acting)

Mr. Risso was named acting DCRT director on April 1, 1996.

He has served as DCRT deputy director since 1991. His other positions within the division include assistant director (1988-91), assistant to the director (1988-87), and electronics engineer (1971-86)

After receiving his master's degree in engineering from Dartmouth College in 1970, Mr. Risso joined DCRT the next year.

His accomplishments include reengineer-ing the NIH's business process through electronic commerce, improving access to databases, and other initiatives that are simplfying purchasing and information use across campus. He has designed hardware and software and has worked on early computerized axial tomography (CAT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, patient monitoring computer systems, and early computer networks.

For his work at DCRT, Mr. Risso has received many honors and awards, including the NIH Director's Award (1994) and a PHS Special Recognition Award (1995).


DCRT Programs

The Office of the Director consists of the Office of Computational Biosciences and the Office of Computing Resources and Services, which provide leadership for the scientific (computational biology, computational chemistry) and administrative services of DCRT, respectively. The director and staff provide leadership with regard to NIH policy and programs involving computing, networking and information systems, and provide liaison with the NIH Office of the Director, the ICDs, and numerous committees and user groups. The computational molecular biology section furnishes support, services, and training in sequence analysis and molecular modeling maintains and supports genetic/genomic databases and software and has introduced Gopher and Mosaic information services to NIH.

The Computational Bioscience and Engineering Laboratory (CBEL) provides high performance parallel supercomputing and image processing systems and leadership in the research, development, and biomedical application of massively parallel computers in a networked environment. CBEL collaborates with research investigators to model complex systems and analyze and interpret data, signals and images in computationally intensive task areas, including electron and light microscopy, x-ray crystallography and multidimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, molecular dynamics and quantum chemistry, drug design, protein folding, medical imaging, and radiation treatment planning.

The Laboratory of Structural Biology carries out biomolecular research using experimental approaches to directly measure forces between and within biomolecules as well as computational approaches to model and simulate biomolecular conformation and assembly. The section on molecular forces investigates the physical forces governing biomolecular function. The molecular graphics and simulation section (MGSS) develops and implements computational methods on leading edge workstations and high performance parallel platforms, with the goal of increasing the realism of simulated molecular properties. The MGSS studies macromolecular motion and interaction using molecular dynamics and quantum mechanics based methods for systems of biomedical interest. The analytical biostatistics section (ABS) develops and applies statistical-based methods to protein secondary structure prediction, structure-function prediction, and the classification of protein folds. The ABS also pioneers the application of mathematical models and statistical techniques to problems arising in endocrinology, biochemistry, and pharmacology such as the analysis of human growth data andthe modeling of drug- or hormone-receptor interactions.

The LSB develops computational methods for predicting the three-dimensional structures of proteins from primary sequences. The center for molecular modeling section provides software tools, guidance, and research collaboration in computational chemistry and structural biology.

The laboratory also develops computer programs and applications of general-purpose computers, workstations, supercomputers, and highly paralles computers for research in molecular and computational biology and chemistry.

The Physical Sciences Laboratory (PSL) brings to bear applications of mathematics and physics on a broad range of biomedical problems. Examples are the development of medical image processing methods, theories for using optical techniques in noninvasive diagnosis, studies of chemical reactions and diffusion in complex media, mathematical modeling of various aspects of cell and tissue physiology, and methods for describing macromolecular energetics.

PSL projects include an analysis of the detectibility and resolution of tumors by time-resolved optical spectrophotometry, apply a model developed in the PSL to interpret data relating to calcium absroption in bone in several diseases, and an investigation of structural transformations of clathrin-coated pits during receptor-mediated endocytosis. The laboratory serves as a general resource for collaborations involving physical sciences (e.g., crystallography, NMR spectroscopy) applied to problems of interest to medical researchers.

The Network Systems Branch provides leadership in developing and implementing networking and other communications technologies for the NIH campus and its outlying facilities, including connections with national and international data networks. The branch explores new technologies applicable to the NIH environment, provides continuous guidance and support for locally managed networks, and maintains liaisons with other DHHS components to improve the overall information dissemination infrastructure.

The Computing Facilities Branch (CFB) plans operates, and supports scientific and administrative computing resources for NIH-wide use and for use by other Federal Government agencies. CFB promotes awareness and efficient and effective use of computing resources by its customers; investigates new and emerging customer comuting requirements; and conducts research and development to identify, evaluate, and adapt new computer architectures and technologies. Services are provided on several platforms.

Mainframe computer systems support large-scale administrative applications and massive data management requirements, including the NIH administrative database and the IMPAC and CRISP systems, as well as providing a variety of batch and interactive processing capabilities.

In addition, modern relational database management systems on the mainframes provide for client-server methods to access them. Scientific computing services are provided by a general purpose scientific computer system, supplemented by a vector supercomputer and a parallel supercomputer.

The Advanced Laboratory Workstation System offers network-based support and access to a distrbuted file system for users of scientific and engineering workstations. The branch provides round-the-clock oversight for these facilities and for a wide variety of Internet and World Wide Web services. CFB services are available to users 7 days a week, 24 hours a day via high-speed point-to-point and dial connections and via the Internet.

The Customer Services Branch (CSB) furnishes centralized, integrated computer support services to DCRT customers. As the primary interface to the NIH computing community, CSB performs its liaison role by consulting with customers to resolve computing problems and provide advice referring questions to appropriate experts within DCRT operating DCRT”s computer training program and disseminating technical information, documentation, and certain software. The branch designs and develops methodologies for software change control, and it promotes NIH community awareness of DCRT services.

The Information Systems Branch (ISB) provides advice and assistance to research investigators, program officials, and administators throughout NIH in planning and obtaining data processing and computation services. ISB serves as a central resource for systems analysis, design, and programming expertise for NIH management and data processing projects related to administrative, scientific, and technical data.

The branch develops and maintains specified central NIH administrative systems and general-purpose and information handling techniques for data management and information processing. ISB plans data processing and computation projects involving DCRT central facility computers aas well as exchanges technical knowledge and operating expertise with other operations research, systems analysis, computer programming, and data processing organizations within and outside the NIH.

The Statistical Support Staff provides 1) a combination of research in mathematical statistics and computer information science with collaboration and service in all computational aspects of biomedical data analysis; 2) advice and consultation on the quantitative analysis of biomedical research data and use of the computer in such analysis, including interpreting output and developing statistical procedures when needed; 3) selection, maintenance and support of a large collection of mathematical/statistical computer systems for general use in the analysis of modeling of research data; and 4) training and teaching the effective use of these systems to biomedical researchers, administrators and other NIH users, including a rapid response to user queries.