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Three UW Students Receive NCAR Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Science

May 2, 2013
Two women and a man
Ping Guo, Christopher Kruse, and Soumi Manna

Three University of Wyoming students will work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) this summer. Specifically, they will contribute to research projects by making computer code work faster and/or allow higher resolutions of computer models.

The students are Ping Guo, a doctoral student in computer science; Christopher G. Kruse, a master’s student in atmospheric science; and Soumi Manna, a master’s student in computer science. Each received a Summer Internship in Parallel Computational Science (SIParCS).

The NCAR program offers graduate students and undergraduate students (who have completed their sophomore college year by summer) significant hands-on research and development opportunities in high-performance computing (HPC) and related fields that use HPC for scientific discovery and modeling. This program places students as summer interns in the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL), an organization within NCAR. CISL is charged with provisioning supercomputing and data systems to the geosciences research community, as well as conducting research and development in computational science, data analysis, scientific visualization and numerical modeling.

UW was the only institution that had multiple students receive internships this summer, according to a list provided by SIParCS Program Coordinator Kristin Mooney. A total of 11 students nationwide received the SIParCS internship.

During their internships, students will conduct original research under the guidance of their science mentor; make a presentation based on their research; and participate professionally in all SIParCS activities. Internships last 11 weeks, and run from May 20 through Aug. 2. The internship package includes housing, a salary stipend, one round-trip air fare to Colorado from within the United States and a regional bus pass.

UW’s Office of Academic Affairs and the President’s Office have provided stipend and travel support for some of the UW students who will participate in SIParCS at NCAR. 

“SIParCS is one of the nation’s premier programs for high-level training and research in the use of advanced-architecture, high-performance computers,” says UW Provost Myron Allen. “The fact that three of our students will participate in the program this coming summer illustrates the world-class opportunities that UW can offer because of our partnership with NCAR.”

Christopher Kruse

Kruse will collaborate with Davide Del Vento on a project titled “Weather Research and Forecast Model (WRF) Performance and Scaling Assessment.” Del Vento is a software engineer/programmer III in CISL’s Operations and Service Division.

The WRF model is a next-generation numerical weather prediction system designed to serve both atmospheric research and operational forecasting needs. Kruse will benchmark the WRF model on Yellowstone, the nickname for the supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC), Del Vento says.

“The reason why the committee selected Christopher is because he is very qualified and very motivated in doing this internship,” says Del Vento. “In fact, it looks like he has done similar work (on a much smaller scale).”

This will be Kruse's second such NCAR internship. Two summers ago, his work focused on parallelizing portions of the NCAR Command Language (NCL) on graphics processing units (GPUs).

“This is the second time I’ve been in the internship program and I really liked it,” Kruse says. “I feel lucky to be going back.”

For this internship, Kruse says he expects to work with various compilers, which are essentially a set of programs that transform source code written in a programming language into another computer language. Source code is transformed to create executable programs, Kruse says.

“This allows computer code, in whatever programming language you’re using, to be run on a computer,” Kruse says. “We’ll test different compilers to determine if this speeds up or slows down the performance of the model.”

This allows for the ability to run large domains of weather patterns, for the entire world or just the U.S.; or a forecast for smaller areas, such as any 1- or 2- kilometer area.  That’s very important in Wyoming, where the topography, which includes plains and mountains, is varied, Kruse says.

Del Vento also hopes Kruse will help understand bottlenecks (a delay in transmission of data through the circuits of a computer’s microprocessor or over a network), and propose code or setting changes to improve performance.

Kruse, who grew up in Hartington, Neb., remembers his childhood winter storms as “particularly fascinating, especially when school was called off.”  This experience developed into a personal obsession with winter storms, Kruse says.

Kruse adds that the internship is a good resume builder as he transitions to his doctoral program in geophysics at Yale University in the fall.

Ping Guo

Guo will work with Wei Huang on a project titled “GPU Processing in NCL for Data Analysis and Visualization.” Huang is a software engineer/programmer III with CISL’s Technology Development Division.

Guo will focus her efforts on speeding up NCAR Command Language (NCL) with GPUs, according to Huang. NCL is a data analysis and visualization package that is widely used in the climate and atmospheric sciences community, in operational weather centers and by researchers in a variety of other domains.

“The reasons we chose Ping as our intern are her previous experience with GPU computation using CUDA; the letter she wrote about her interest in GPU computing; and her GPA,” Huang says.

CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model that enables dramatic increases in computing performance by using the power of the GPU.

“I have four years’ experience in computing. I want to acquire some knowledge about data analysis and visualization techniques,” Ping says of her internship goals. “This is a good collaboration.”

Guo says she was drawn to UW because of the Computer Science Department’s work in high-performance computing. At UW, she has been a teaching assistant for Operating System Design and High Performance Computing courses. She also has been a research assistant on various Department of Computer Science projects. She expects to obtain her doctorate at UW in August 2014.

Before coming to UW, Guo received her master’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Harbin University of Science and Technology in China.

Soumi Manna

Manna will partner with Ben Jamroz on a project titled “Evaluating the Performance of the Community Atmosphere Model at High Resolutions.” Jamroz is a project scientist II with CISL’s Technology Development Division.

“Soumi will analyze the performance of large parallel atmospheric simulations on supercomputers, including the Yellowstone supercomputer,” Jamroz says. “Her work will help identify and address potential performance improvements to the model, allowing higher resolution simulations. These important simulations provide scientific insight about atmospheric and climate dynamics.”

Manna’s experience with parallel and GPU accelerated programming, as well as knowledge of several computing languages, will be an asset for this project, Jamroz says. 

The project will provide her experience working with large scientific code, evaluating parallel performances and identifying bottlenecks to performance, Manna says. In addition, she will be able to demonstrate her programming skills using C, C++ and FORTRAN.

“This internship will help me to get some industrial experience I don’t have,” says Manna, who is scheduled to graduate from UW in December.

Manna, from Kolkata, West Bengal, India, received her bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from Meghnad Saha Institute of Technology (West Bengal University of Technology) in Kolkata. When she graduated from there, Manna already had a connection to UW. Her husband was a doctoral student in the chemistry department.

“I came here after my marriage. I attended some classes and sat in on some research meetings,” she says. “Then, I became interested in computer science and applied here.”

Manna says the skills she will use for the NCAR internship tie into her master’s thesis.

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