September 16, 2015, BY Matt Hughes

Imagine this: A pianist sits down at her keyboard at Bucknell's Weis Center for the Performing Arts. Projected on a screen next to her, another pianist located across the country takes a seat at her own instrument. The two musicians perform a duet in perfect harmony, without missing a beat due to lag or network hiccups.

Thanks to a new connection to an international research network, such a performance is now possible at Bucknell, said Param Bedi, vice president for library and information technology.

On Sept. 1, Bucknell joined Internet2, a consortium of nearly 300 U.S. higher education institutions connected by the nation's largest and fastest coast-to-coast research and education network. Bedi said the University's connection to the network — which also serves more than 90,000 community anchor institutions, 70 government agencies and 84 leading corporations — will be complete by Oct. 1.

To explain the advantage an Internet2 connection provides, Bedi likened the internet as most of us experience it to the Schuylkill Expressway, a notoriously crowded stretch of highway leading into central Philadelphia — there's a limited amount of space for everyone to share, and at peak times, traffic jams ensue. Connecting to Internet2 is like getting your own private lane, only accessible to you and a select few of your friends, he said.

Bucknell's membership in Internet2 is enabled by the University's connection to the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, a high-speed, fiber-optic network linking more than 60 member institutions around the state. That network was built by the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research, of which Bucknell is a charter member, with a grant of nearly $100 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and went online in 2013.

Membership in Internet2 will extend Bucknell's 10-gigabit-per-second internet access beyond Pennsylvania and around the world. That access will allow Bucknell faculty and student researchers to upload and share large data sets in nearly real time, and provide remote access to an array of instruments and resources.

"If a faculty member wants to use a specific instrument at another location, they don't have to go there," Bedi said. "They can do it from here."

It will also greatly improve the University's ability to bring speakers from far-flung places into Bucknell classrooms through videoconferencing, and open doors for faculty to collaborate with colleagues off campus, added Chris Weber '77, Bucknell's assistant chief technology officer.

"There is a dedicated group of researchers who do their work connected to Internet2," Weber said. "I'm hoping our connection to Internet2 makes it easier for like-minded faculty here to reach out and find somebody to help them in their own research. I expect many will take greater advantage of membership in the Internet2 community than I could even imagine."