TACC Supercomputers Map Tree of Life

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While the Tree of Life film bares the rare distinction of being the only movie to put me to sleep three times in one sitting, the study of evolution through Phylogenetics is a very lively topic these days thanks to the power of HPC.

Researchers are using now TACC supercomputers to develop and test smarter, faster, and more accurate genetic alignment and tree-building algorithms and apply them to some of the largest biological datasets ever created.

The most accurate trees are estimated using methods that try to solve hard optimization problems,” said Tandy Warnow, professor of computer science at The University of Texas at Austin and a Guggenheim Fellow. “While those solutions can be done on small datasets or moderate sized data sets, on large datasets, they can take a very long time — weeks to months to years of computational time. The Texas Advanced Computing Center ends up being essential for those problems.”

Collaborating with evolutionary biologists, the software they developed is leading to new insights into the Tree of Life and the relationships among species.

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  1. Rich, Tree of Life (the movie) actually features simulations run at TACC and visualized at NCSA’s Advanced Visualization Lab. There are a bunch of documentary videos online, but at Ebertfest this year in UC, IL the AVL will present on their work after a screening of the movie. ( http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2012/03/introducing_ebertfest_2012.html )