Texas A&M Researcher Receives $1.3 Million To Make Supercomputing Easier

Mar 25, 2013, 16:30 ET from Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fifteen years ago, undergrad Wolfgang Bangerth immersed himself in creating software that would give researchers working on complex equations with billions of variables additional ease and efficiency.

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Now a mathematics professor at Texas A&M University, Bangerth boasts a robust software program, deal.II, used by hundreds of researchers around the world studying a variety of topics, from plant root growth and glacier mechanics to heart muscle fiber simulation and even the impact of air pollution on Roman statues.

Bangerth's globally beneficial efforts recently were enhanced with a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand the software's uses and make it more adaptable for and accessible to researchers.

"For us, this is validation that what we are doing is right," Bangerth said. "We're helping others. We want to provide the infrastructure for other researchers in as broad a way as possible. We want to give researchers the building blocks they need to do their research. There's a need for this. There's not a lot of software for people doing research on projects that have billions of variables."

Researchers working on such complex problems use specialized computing clusters — essentially tens of thousands or more computers stacked and grouped together to pool processing power. Some of the large supercomputing operations use more than a million processor cores, usually in warehouse-like rooms equipped with a powerful cooling system. For example, a recent, partly NSF-funded addition at the University of Texas at Austin, Stampede, has 102,400 processor cores.

The specialized research done on these systems has world-changing potential. Bangerth, for instance, is working with a center at the University of California, Davis to study a hypothesis about the cause of earthquakes, an area that so far has baffled scientists. The computing power is needed to accurately model the turbulent convections of heat ebbing and flowing from the Earth's bowels to its surface — a task Bangerth says requires at least a thousand computers to provide a simulation with adequate resolution.

Although computing power is important, Bangerth notes it's the software that helps researchers harness the true potential of this hardware, which is accessible to all but of maximum benefit to a handful of research groups with the specialized knowledge, ability and resources to write the necessary high-level code from scratch.

Enter Bangerth, his team and deal II.  

Given his expertise in computational mathematics, Bangerth is uniquely positioned to write such software that could be accessible to far more researchers. He's interested in programming, and, although by the strictest of definitions is a mathematician, he is at heart an engineer wanting to solve real-world problems. Because he also is well versed in many subjects, including physics and chemistry, Bangerth offers an interdisciplinary understanding of the myriad computing needs of sundry researchers.

For more information, go to http://www.science.tamu.edu/articles/1001/.

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world's leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $700 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

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SOURCE Texas A&M University