1000 E University Ave
Dept. 3226, Bureau of Mines
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2379
Fax: (307) 766-6729
Devising new ways to develop energy resources, investigating solutions to climate issues, discovering secrets to genetic composition and providing new educational and career opportunities for students are among the many benefits of the University of Wyoming's commitment to high performance computing (HPC).
The most notable component of this commitment will be the opening in June 2012 of the newest National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) supercomputing facility being built 45 miles east of Laramie and in Cheyenne LEADS North Range Business Park. The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) is being developed in partnership with NCAR, UW, the state of Wyoming, Cheyenne LEADS, the Wyoming Business Council and Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power.
NWSC will contain one of the world's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to improving scientific understanding of climate change, severe weather, air quality and other vital atmospheric science and geoscience topics, says Bryan Shader, a mathematics professor who is special assistant to the vice president for research and economic development and UW's liaison with NCAR in developing the educational and diversity opportunities centered around the NWSC.
"UW will have access through its allotment of 20 percent of NWSC's NSF-base funded computational and storage capabilities," Shader says. That capability means seeking solutions to large-scale questions with a system that conducts a mind-boggling one quadrillion (one thousand trillion) operations or more per second.
"UW must build a research computing system if it is to continue to be a competitive research university moving forward" say Bill Gern, VP for Research and Economic Development. "Science is now a triumvirate of approaches including theoretical, experimental and now including computational, with the third becoming quite viable with the development of very powerful computing systems" says Gern.
While significant, NWSC isn't the only commitment to high performance computing at UW. Enhancing UW's cyberinfrastructure has been a priority for several years as the institution positions itself to become a leader in scientific computing and engineering.
UW's strategic plans have targeted computational science as a focus area over the last 12 years and have resulted in the internal reallocation of 24 positions to faculty whose research is highly computational in nature. Currently, four of these faculty members are NSF CAREER Awardees (the most prestigious award for early-career). Among the research efforts at UW involving high performance computing are modeling and simulations into the mechanics and physics of materials, wind turbine turbulence, enhanced oil recovery, dynamics of wildfires, CO2-sequestration, and evolutionary genetics.
"UW's commitment to high performance computing is being noticed nationally," says Tim Kuhfuss, UW Information Technology Research Computing Support director. Kuhfuss is working with Shader to develop a new HPC center for computationally intensive research at UW.
There are nearly 20 smaller computing systems already at UW that will be enhanced through planned improvements to high performance computing facilities and resources.
"We can double the number of researchers using high performance computing by making it more accessible," Kuhfuss says.
Kuhfuss is familiar with the benefits of high performance computing on research and development, having worked at the Argonne National Laboratory and in the private sector before arriving at UW earlier this year.
"The tools and resources will provide educational, economic and outreach benefits to the state," Kuhfuss says.
Expanding UW students' educational and career opportunities through course offerings that embed cutting edge technologies is already resulting from the investment in high performance computing. An example is the recently opened UNIX-based laboratory inside Ross Hall. The Myron B. Allen III High Performance Teaching and Computing Lab is named in honor of UW's current provost and former head of the university's Department of Mathematics.
This lab will host workshops and classes on high-performance and research computing for UW faculty and students.
"Because this lab houses computers that use the UNIX operating system, it gives students a place where they can learn how to work in the standard environment for advanced scientific computing," Allen says. "Labs like this will be critical for teaching people how to scale innovative algorithms from desktop computers to supercomputers, such as the one at NWSC."
Interdisciplinary programs and courses in high performance computing involving math, computer science, geology and geophysics, and other disciplines are also being developed.
Fred Ogden, UW Civil and Architectural Engineering professor, is working with researchers at Utah universities to develop computer modeling of how natural and manmade changes in Western states will influence future water resources. The complex simulations require high performance computing.
Beyond the ground-breaking research methodology, software and hardware being developed for the project, Ogden says results from the high performance computing efforts may transform how students are taught about water resources. Students may find themselves in 3-D virtual classroom observing a professor manipulate data showing how a diversion of a stream affects a forest a hundred miles away, or reduces the amount of water available for agriculture or a city in another state.
"Students will also benefit by new curriculum involving programming for high performance computing," Ogden said. "Graduates with those programming skills are in high demand."
As UW plans for new investments in cyberinfrastructure to meet future demands, it already is a partner with other major public-private research and high performance computing centers around the world through Internet2 and National Lambda Rail. UW has access to a 10 gigabit per second system, about 2,000 times faster than average speeds available to users at home.
"This allows the university to be able to collaborate with other institutions on research and academic projects at the highest possible levels," says Robert Morrison, UW Information Technology Telecommunications and Systems Services director.