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NSF Funds HPC Cluster at Penn State

The Penn State Cyber-Laboratory for Astronomy, Materials, and Physics (CyberLAMP) is acquiring a high-performance computer cluster that will facilitate interdisciplinary research and training in cyberscience and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The hybrid computer cluster will combine general purpose central processing unit (CPU) cores with specialized hardware accelerators, including the latest generation of NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs) and Intel Xeon Phi processors.

This state-of-the-art computer cluster will provide Penn State researchers with over 3200 CPU and Phi cores, as well as 101 GPUs, a significant increase in the computing power available at Penn State,” said Yuexing Li, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics and the principal investigator of the project.

Astronomers and physicists at Penn State will use this computer cluster to improve the analysis of the massive observational datasets generated by cutting-edge surveys and instruments. They will be able to broaden the search for Earth-like planets by the Habitable Zone Planet Finder, sharpen the sensitivity of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to the cataclysmic merger of ultra-massive astrophysical objects like black holes and neutron stars, and dramatically enhance the ability of the IceCube experiment to detect and reconstruct elusive cosmological and atmospheric neutrinos.

“The order-of-magnitude improvement in processing power provided by CyberLAMP GPUs will revolutionize the way the IceCube experiment analyzes its data, enabling it to extract many more neutrinos, with much finer detail, than ever before,” said co-principal investigator Doug Cowen, professor of physics and astronomy and astrophysics.

“The CyberLAMP team performs sophisticated simulations to study the formation of planetary systems and the universe,” said co-principal investigator Eric Ford, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and deputy director of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds. “The CyberLAMP cluster will enable simulations with greater realism to investigate mysteries such as how Earth-like planets form, and to probe the nature of dark energy.”

Researchers from Penn State’s Material Research Institute (MRI) will perform realistic, atomistic-scale simulations to guide the design and development of next-generation complex materials,” said co-principal investigator Adri van Duin, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering and director of the Materials Computation Center.

Co-principal investigator Mahmut Kandemir, professor of computer science and engineering, said, “Computer scientists will work with other scientists to analyze the performance of their calculations when using new hardware accelerators so as to increase the efficiency of their simulations and to inform the design of future computer architectures.”

“Penn State’s Institute for CyberScience (ICS) is excited by this opportunity to rapidly expand the access of Penn State researchers and students to the new generation of hardware accelerators that will be critical to meet the growing computational needs of `Big Data’ and `Big Simulation’ research,” said Jenni Evans, professor of meteorology and interim director of the Institute for CyberScience.

This grant will enable Penn State to shed new light on high-priority topics in U.S. national strategic plans,” said Andrew Stephenson, distinguished professor of biology and associate dean for research and innovation of Penn State’s Eberly College of Science, “such as the National Research Council’s 2010 Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics to search for habitable planets and to understand the fundamental physics of the cosmos, as well as the White House’s Materials Genome Initiative to expedite development of new materials.”

The new system will support research in five broad research groups, including 29 Penn State faculty members across seven departments, three colleges and two institutes at Penn State’s University Park campus, as well as four faculty members from three Commonwealth Campuses, and numerous graduate students. The CyberLAMP system will be installed in Penn State’s new Tower Road Data Center and will be accessible to faculty and students across the Commonwealth.

The grant will also provide access to the CyberLAMP system to support a wide range of outreach programs at regional and national levels, including the training of students and young researchers nationwide, educational programs for K-12 students and teachers, broadening participation of women and underrepresented minority students in cyberscience, and partnering with industry on materials research and the design of next-generation high-performance computer architectures,” said Chris Palma, outreach director of CyberLAMP.

The 3-year project, titled “MRI: Acquisition of High Performance Hybrid Computing Cluster to Advance Cyber-Enabled Science and Education at Penn State,” is led by Li, and co-principal investigators Ford, Cowen, Kandemir and van Duin in partnership with the Institute of CyberScience’s (ICS) Advanced CyberInfrastructure group, led by Chuck Gilbert, chief architect of ICS, and Wayne Figurelle, assistant director of ICS. The ICS is a University-wide institute whose mission is to promote interdisciplinary research. ICS was established in 2012 to develop a strategic and coherent vision for cyberscience at Penn State.

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