Visit to Army High-Performance Computing
Figure 1: Bess Vljaisavljevitch, Chris Orth, Tyler Hutchison, Daniel Selifonov, Scott Lembcke,
Mike Anderson, Matt Gravelle, and Elena Machkasova.
On March 23, 2006, a group of 11 students and 2 faculty took a trip to the Twin Cities in order to visit several landmarks in computer modeling. A variety of majors were represented among the students, including physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry and biology, the faculty were Elena Machkasova from Computer Science, and Sylke Boyd from the physics discipline. Originally planned as a class field trip for the course on Computer Modeling of Materials, the proposed trip quickly gathered interest among science students with an interest in computational modeling and high-performance computing.
Figure 2: Dr. Frances Hill explains the inner construction of an old Cray computer.
Dr Frances Hill, a staff scientist at the
Figure 3: In the machine room at the AHPCRC
Figure 4: The computing center from the outside. The big fans on the right part of the building provide cooling for the machine room.
The AHPCH features several top-notch Cray parallel computers in addition to an array of Beowulf clusters. On a tour of the machine room, we learned about the elaborate cooling mechanisms for these computers, as well as various facts such as the energy consumption of the center being equivalent to that of a small town. The center offers summer research programs for undergraduate students – these should pose an excellent opportunity for computer-interested students to learn about FORTRAN programming, programming of parallel computers and physical modeling. We appreciate the time that was taken to show us around and demonstrate the remarkably complex computer models to us. During lunch, there was opportunity for some chatting with the staff scientists at the center.
Figure 5: After lunch (sponsored by the AHPCRC) we
Figure 6: The group that visited the Department of Chemistry, UTC.
Bess Vljaisavljevitch, Anna Schliep, Arthur Aaberg, Chris Orth, Matthew Gravelle, and Mike Anderson.
One group visited the computer science department and learned about options for graduate school in computer science. This group listened to several presentations from graduate students, and visited the graphics lab, the robotics lab and a lab for research on artificial intelligence.
Another group visited with research groups in computational
chemistry. Dr. Jiali Gao was so kind to welcome us for a tour of four
research groups in the Minnesota
Computational Chemistry (MC2) group. We met with professors, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students who
are involved in a wide variety of computational research projects. Special
thanks go to Prof. Jiali Gao, Dr. Ben Gherman (group
of Prof. Chris Cramer), Prof. Darren York, and Prof. Ilja Siepmann, who took
the time and effort to talk to us about research projects in their groups. The
computational models deal with systems such as enzyme reactions, viral RNA
reactions within the cytoplasm, neuro-transmitter
oxidation, phase separation in gas chromatography, defect migration between
planetary mantle and core, nucleation of water droplets in the high atmosphere,
and others. We learned about the methods used in the physical models, such as
the force fields, quantum-mechanical approximations, molecular-dynamics and
Monte-Carlo techniques. Computer models can try to assess situations which are
experimentally not feasible, such as high-pressure high-temperature systems, or
very instable or inaccessible systems. We spent an intense three-and –half
hours in the Department of Chemistry, filled with information, personal
contacts and –last not least – an impression on what graduate school in
computational modeling might entail. Two UMM graduates had gone through Prof. Ilja Siepmann’s group before:
Collin Wick, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory, and John Stubbs, who is presently a visiting assistant
This visit was worthwhile to the students for many reasons: It was an opportunity to see how far the methods learned in various courses can be taken, to the most complex systems. It posed an opportunity to learn about real applications in research of high-performance computing and to learn about the implications (such as the prevalence of Fortran programming in scientific computing) relevant for computer science. For any student considering graduate school, it gave an opportunity to find out on how life at that stage might look like. For everybody, the trip provided inspiration and new contacts. Personally, I am very glad to have met faculty at the Twin Cities campus, and hope to foster the connections.
After a nice walk (that would have taken us through all of Morris and then some), we sat at a well-deserved dinner in the Old Spaghetti Factory.
Morris, March 25, 2006
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