Why do some children struggle learning to read, and what can be done to help?
A better understanding of the visual portions of children’s brains and how they develop can help provide answers. At Stanford University’s Vision Imaging Science and Technology (VISTA) Lab, Dr. Brian Wandell and his colleagues have analyzed hundreds of magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of different brains. By measuring the developmental changes that occur as reading skills are acquired and correlating neuroimaging data with behavioral data, the lab works to enable more personalized diagnoses and more effective interventions.
VISTA Lab is just one example of many cognitive and neurobiological research projects at Stanford. Most work with large volumes of data and run computationally intensive analyses. When Dr. Wandell became Director of the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging (CNI)—a shared facility that provides imaging and compute resources to more than 40 research labs—he was determined to find a better way to manage, analyze, and share scientific data.
“In the past, we struggled with managing our data, algorithms, and computations, and keeping it all accessible as postdocs come and go,” he says. “We wanted a data management system that would address this challenge while allowing us to share our methods and data with other scientists around the world.”
To make it easier for researchers to organize data and use and share computational tools, VISTA Lab and CNI began using Flywheel, a scientific data management system. The partnership was a success, simplifying the management of neuroimaging data and algorithms.
However, the lab and facility still had to deploy and manage their own hardware, and apply for grant funding when more resources were needed. Procuring and configuring infrastructure for a new project took up to a year. With the growing complexity of neuroimaging and other healthcare-related research, Stanford needed a cloud platform that could handle increasingly complex data computational workloads as well as support HIPAA compliance.
To give its departments a more secure cloud solution for HIPAA-protected information, the university signed a Business Associate Agreement with Google to use Google Cloud. As a result, Google Cloud is now the preferred cloud platform for many Stanford schools and labs, including VISTA Lab, CNI, the Stanford School of Medicine, and the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine. Dr. Wandell and his team had the green light to move Flywheel to the cloud and reap the benefits.
“Running Flywheel on Google Cloud is necessary for our labs to thrive and even survive,” he says. “We can scale easily with research demands, turn resources off when we’re not using them, and extend our labs with a high-performance, highly available cloud that scientists all over the world can tap into.”