Minnesota Supercomputing Institute showcases U of M research at SC08


The University of Minnesota's Supercomputing Institute showcased the University's research efforts at this year's Supercomputing (SC) Conference held November 15-21, 2008 in Austin, TX. The SC Conference is the premier international conference for high performance computing (HPC), networking, storage and analysis.

This was the first year that the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI) hosted a booth at the conference. MSI's booth featured presentations by Dr. Paul Woodward, one of the University of Minnesota's most notable faculty researchers.

Woodward, a professor of astronomy, and director of the University's Laboratory for Computational Science & Engineering (LCSE), presented on the topic "Interactive Simulation of Helium Shell Flash Convection With the Piecewise-Parabolic Method (PPM) at MSI and LCSE." A new version of the PPM gas dynamics code with a special treatment of multifluid flow using the Piece­wise-Parabolic Boltzmann scheme (PPB) has been implemented especially for efficient processing on multicore cluster systems. With support from NSF infrastructure grants and a special MSI interactive supercomputing initiative, Woodward and the LCSE team have developed this code into an application that can be run under interactive user control with immediate visual feedback. How this interactive performance has been achieved and how the user control and visual feedback are implemented was discussed. An example interactive run was shown simulating the convection above the helium burning shell and the entrainment of stably stratified gas from above this zone.

Another prominent University of Minnesota professor presenting at this year's conference was Dr. David Yuen.

Yuen, a professor of geophysics and computation science, presented on two topics at SC08. His first topic, "Numerical Simulations of Tsunamis Can Save Lives," shows how numerical methods combined with visualization tools allow us to predict the paths to be taken by packets of tsunami waves. The videos show the waves as they propagate across the Pacific from an earthquake near Solomon Islands close to Guadacanal. His second topic, "Three-dimensional Mantle Convection," shows mantle convection with multiple phase transitions, which are present in the mantle because of the extreme temperature and pressure conditions: in excess of hundred billion atmospheres at the core-mantle boundary and around 4500 Fahrenheit. The core-mantle boundary separates the liquid core, responsible for generating the Earth's magnetic field, and the solid mantle, which convects slowly at a rate of two inches per year.

MSI staff members also presented on topics relevant to their respective field. Topics included: "Scaling Astrophysical and Medical Applications with Microsoft HPC Server 2008" by Dr. H. Birali Runesha; "Realizing the Potential of Large Multi-Core MPPs" by Dr. David Porter; "Challenges in Applying Monte Carlo Approaches to Massively Parallel Computing" by Dr. Shuxia Zhang; and "TROPIX: The Research Organizer for Project Information eXchange" by Dr. Ben Lynch.

MSI provides supercomputing resources and user support to faculty and students at the University and at other post-secondary educational institutions in the State of Minnesota. Besides MSI's long-standing support of the physical sciences, recent years have seen expanded support to biological and medical researchers.