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Trustee donates $15 million to BU for new institute

Boston University received a $15 million pledge from BU trustee Bahaa Hariri to build an institute for computational science and engineering on Thursday.

“Supporting great research universities is an act of faith and a resilient commitment to contribute positively to the well-being of societies,” Hariri said in a Dec. 2 press release. “My contribution today is a testimony to my father’s everlasting devotion to the pursuit of knowledge and an enduring hope to many around the world.”

Opening in fall 2011, the Bahaa Hariri Institute for Computational Science and Engineering will focus on four research and education topics: biology and medicine, physical science and engineering, social and management sciences and the arts, which include communication and education, according to the release.

“Computational and data-driven methods play a crucial role in all four of the targeted application clusters,” said Azer Bestavros, the institute’s founding director and computer science professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, in a news release.

“Computational immunology research can dramatically advance how we come up with new vaccines,” he said. “By fusing and mining geoscience data collected over time from multiple sources, we can tell what’s happening with the environment. Just think about how advances in social networking could influence business administration, sociology research, privacy legislations, and public policies.”

The foundation will put emphasis on workshops and research projects, including discussions between faculty, students, research staff and visiting experts, according to the press release.

“Computing-based approaches have become critical for interpreting the ever-increasing amounts of data being collected in virtually all areas of human endeavor,” said Andrei Ruckenstein, the BU vice president and associate provost for research, in a news release.

“This establishes a common need and also a common language among practitioners of very different disciplines,” he said. “Promoting literacy in this language of computing among our students and faculty outside of scientific disciplines, as well as with the public at large, is also an important goal of the Hariri Institute.”

Hariri has been a BU Trustee since 2004 and is a School of Management alumnus. His father, the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon, donated $10 million to the university after Hariri graduated from BU in 1990.
“We are extremely grateful for Bahaa Hariri’s visionary commitment in creating this institute at the nexus of modern computing and a range of critical applications,” said President Robert Brown. “Boston University has tremendous faculty and research activities in these areas, and the creation of the institute will build the foundation for new interdisciplinary collaborations across these boundaries.”

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