UW professors awarded time with supercomputers

At the recent Council on Competitiveness held in Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced the names of 45 research projects that would share 95 million hours of supercomputing time in 2007.

Supercomputer facts

The Department of Energy (DOE) has one of the top 10 most powerful supercomputers in the world, and four of the top 100.

A project that receives one million hours can run on 2,000 processors for 500 hours.

A one million hour project on a single-processor would take over 114 years.

Previous research applications were designing quieter cars, improving commercial aircraft design, advancing fusion energy, studying supernova, understanding nanomaterials, studying global climate change and studying the causes of Parkinson's disease.

Made possible through the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, among the 45 projects chosen were three involving UW professors.

Created in 2003 by Raymond Orbach, director of the office of science, the purpose of INCITE is to seek out "computationally intensive, large-scale research projects with the potential to significantly advance key areas in science and engineering," according to the DOE Web site.

While intended to primarily donate supercomputing time to select projects, INCITE also provides recipients with assistance from scientists and staff at the facilities across the U.S. that house the supercomputers.

UW biochemistry professor David Baker, a 2007 INCITE recipient, said that supercomputers are simply very large computers with a large number of processors that can carry out large calculations.

"There are two ways to create a supercomputer: by putting together a large number of processors or by linking personal computers together," he said.

Granted three million processing hours at the Argonne National Lab in Illinois, Baker's research focuses on computing the structure of proteins with less than 150 amino acids with atomic-level resolution.

"My group is working on developing a vaccine for HIV," he said. "Another project is to create an enzyme that stops the gene that causes malaria."

For UW students interested in contributing to his work, Baker said they can donate processor time by going to http://www.bakerlab.org/rosetta and download the Rosetta program.

A separate project granted three million hours at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee involves oceanography professor LuAnne Thompson.

Working under a project title of Eulerian and Lagrangian Studies of Turbulent Transport in the Global Ocean, this research will complete the "first-ever centennial-scale eddy-resolving global ocean simulation," according to the INCITE proposal Web site.

Also awarded time at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UW physics professor Martin Savage is a part of another research team awarded 10 million hours of supercomputing time.

Savage said for his project, the supercomputers will be used to further understand the relations between the building blocks of matter such as quarks and gluons.

"This will help us to understand how finely tuned the universe is," he said. "If you change the fundamental constants of nature, would the universe still produce stars? Or humans?"

Reach reporter Nathan Lee at nathanlee@thedaily.washington.edu.

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