02 Aug, 2021

CyVerse Welcomes New Project Leader Eric Lyons

CyVerse principal investigator Parker Antin is passing the helm to Eric Lyons. Tyson Swetnam also joins the leadership team, taking charge of science and training.


Eric Lyons is stepping up as CyVerse principal investigator and project leader. Lyons has worked with the project since 2010 and has served as co-principal investigator since 2012. Lyons was instrumental in defining the project's early objectives to provide computational infrastructure and training for the national plant sciences community.

"Lyons has been deeply involved with CyVerse since near its inception and he is uniquely qualified to continue advancing its vision," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, senior vice president of research and innovation. "I'm extending congratulations and a warm welcome to Lyons as he takes the helm, working to provide access to powerful supercomputing resources and data-driven discovery to researchers across the globe."

A headshot of Eric Lyons.
Eric Lyons

Lyons is a University of Arizona associate professor in the School of Plant Sciences, School of Information, Biosystems Engineering, and the Genetics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, advisor on research for cyber initiatives in agriculture, life, and veterinary sciences to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Office of the Associate Dean, member of the BIO5 Institute, and member of the graduate faculty.

Lyons' research focuses on bioinformatics and genomics, as well as scalable cyberinfrastructure to support life science research. He founded the Comparative Genomics, or CoGe, platform to provide dynamic tools for analyzing, comparing, and visualizing genomic data. Now led by Andrew Nelson of the Boyce Thompson Institute, CoGe stores over 50,000 genomic datasets for over 20,000 organisms. Lyons also served as Program Director for the National Science Foundation's Division of Integrated Organismal Systems from 2018-2019.

Lyons succeeds Parker Antin as CyVerse principal investigator. Antin joined the project in 2013, following renewal of its 5-year, $50 million award from the National Science Foundation. The award came with an increase in scope mandate, from providing cyberinfrastructure and training to plant scientists, to providing such for all life sciences.

"During my tenure as principal investigator of CyVerse, it has been my pleasure to see the project grow into the National Science Foundation's premier data management platform, an invaluable resource to researchers across the country," said Antin.

"Lyons has been involved at every step, and his intimate knowledge of the cyberinfrastructure systems and data science requirements of life scientists, as well as his prominent position as a community leader in life science research make him eminently suited to take over CyVerse leadership."

Antin will continue his research at UArizona in the molecular mechanisms of embryonic development, and his roles as associate vice president for research in the Division of Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences, professor of cellular and molecular medicine and molecular and cellular biology, and member of the BIO5 Institute.

"Parker Antin joined CyVerse as principal investigator at a time of intense transition for the project," said Lyons. "With an expanded mandate to serve all of life sciences, his leadership helped shape CyVerse into the unique and invaluable platform for community data management that it is today. His experience working with diverse scientific communities from his role as the president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology was paramount in the transition. As someone who has been heavily invested in this project since its inception, I will be forever grateful for Antin's leadership, experience, and contributions."

A headshot of Tyson Swetnam.
Tyson Swetnam

The CyVerse leadership team also is joined by new co-principal investigator Tyson Swetnam, UArizona research assistant professor of geoinformatics in the BIO5 Institute and member of the Data Science Institute. Swetnam's own research focuses on spatial data cyberinfrastructure. He also leads CyVerse's Science and Training Team, developing and implementing curricula for the project's Foundational Open Science Skills and Container Camp courses, among other training initiatives, conferences, and workshops.

"I became involved with CyVerse as a postdoctoral researcher in 2014. The project leaders introduced me to the data management and cyberinfrastructure tools that I needed to scale my research into high performance computing," said Swetnam. "Now, it is my distinct pleasure to help bring these same CyVerse services and training opportunities to a broader community of life and earth scientists looking to do data-intensive science."

CyVerse was originally created by the National Science Foundation in 2008 with the name iPlant Collaborative. iPlant quickly grew into a mature organization, providing powerful resources and offering scientific and technical support services to researchers nationally and internationally.

In 2015, iPlant was rebranded as CyVerse to emphasize an expanded mission to serve all life sciences. By democratizing access to supercomputing capabilities, CyVerse provides a crucial resource to enable scientists to find solutions for the future.

"My vision for CyVerse is that this project will continue to grow to serve every scientific discipline where data management analyses are needed to make scientific discoveries and insights," said Lyons.

"We are in a unique position to empower global science and technology advancements. That is why our community of users includes scientists, educators, and developers, from undergraduate and PhD students, to national research institutes such as the newly-announced Artificial Intelligence Institute for Resilient Agriculture, to international collaborations such as the Event Horizon Telescope. Data are data, regardless of discipline, and CyVerse provides the resources to use your data and get science done."

CyVerse is a federation of the University of Arizona, Texas Advanced Computing Center, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The project's leadership team also includes co-principal investigator and UArizona Data Science Institute director Nirav Merchant, co-principal investigator and education, outreach, and training lead David Micklos at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Matthew Vaughn, co-principal investigator and cyberinfrastructure lead at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin. CyVerse is funded by NSF award numbers DBI-0735191, DBI-1265383 and DBI-1743442.