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UTA Grad Students Get Grant To Make Facebook Faster

ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – At the University of Texas at Arlington, where students often meet face to face to discuss an academic phenomenon, a group of students is working on a social phenomenon that's aimed to change how we communicate.

"It's a great opportunity to be associated with this research work," says graduate student John Fernandez. "I've never done anything like this."

Their goal is to figure out a way to quickly cool massive data centers for Facebook and 14 other large-scale corporations.

On the social networking landmark, more than 800 million users interact with 900 million other pages, groups and events, uploading an average of more than 250 million photos each day. Those steep usage numbers have spurred the students to help match the site's soaring demand.

"It's pretty quick as it is; I think they are just trying to keep it up to pace as we grow," says Rick Eiland who will be working on the project with Fernandez and a handful of other students.

"We are very excited to be part of Facebook," says Dr. Dereje Agonafer from UTA.

Agonafer says data centers account for roughly 2 percent of all U.S. energy use. That's enough to power a couple of cities the size of Austin for most of a year.

"You are able to put more servers (online), which means you can get better information, or more information -- more data," says Dr. Agonafer.

What that translates into is a faster Facebook, and the savings for Facebook and other companies involved could be in the millions, Agonafer said.

"(On) Facebook there is a lot of downloading of pictures and uploading of pictures; this takes time," says Agonafer. "It's going to be maybe a thousand times faster."

For the group of students, it's a chance to influence the social phenomenon of their time.

Facebook is pledging $50,000 to the research. That pledge is renewable for up to five years.

The social networking company is one of 15 that UTA will be doing research for. Other data heavyweights include Microsoft, General Electric and Bloomberg.

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