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New Discoveries in the Making for 2021-2022

Published on April 5, 2021 by Aaron Dubrow



The 58 projects receiving Large Resource Allocation awards on Frontera will utilize a total of 58.3 million node hours — approximately 80% of the total time on the system this coming year.

For U.S.-based computational researchers who can use hundreds of thousands of computer processors simultaneously to solve Grand Challenge problems in science and engineering, computing on the Frontera supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) represents an opportunity to probe the world more deeply than ever before.

The leadership-class system lets researchers add resolution to models of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; increase the accuracy of space weather forecasts; or provide theoretical predictions for particle physics experiments that can't yet be performed on Earth.

TACC announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has approved allocations of supercomputing time on Frontera for 58 science projects for 2021-2022. Of the allocations, 23 represent new projects on Frontera; 35 are renewals. The projects range from efforts to engineer new nanomaterials to studies mapping pan-Arctic permafrost thaw. Led by researchers at 41 universities across 23 states, the projects began on April 1, 2021.

Frontera is an NSF-funded system designed for the most experienced academic computational scientists in the nation. Researchers are awarded time on Frontera based on their need for very large-scale computing, and the ability to efficiently use a supercomputer on the scale of Frontera.

Deployed in September 2019, teams of researchers have successfully used Frontera to perform the first all-atom simulations of COVID-19's protein spike; discover a cluster of 250 previously unknown stars in our galaxy that were born elsewhere; and perform the largest, most realistic tornado simulations ever attempted. The system is currently the ninth most powerful supercomputer in the world, the largest at any university, and the fastest non-accelerated (primarily CPU-based) system in the world, according to the latest Top500 list.

"NSF funded Frontera to inspire new transformative ideas and explorations and enable fundamental scientific discoveries that would not be possible otherwise."
Manish Parashar, Director of the NSF Office for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure

"NSF is pleased to see the diversity of users who are part of the current cohort of allocations, including users who are new to Frontera," said Manish Parashar, director of the NSF Office for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. "NSF funded Frontera to inspire new transformative ideas and explorations and enable fundamental scientific discoveries that would not be possible otherwise. We look forward to results of the research enabled by this set of allocations."

The allocations awarded this month represent the second cohort of Frontera users selected by the Large Resource Allocation Committee (LRAC) — a peer-review panel of computational science experts who convene annually to assess the readiness and appropriateness of projects for time on Frontera. To be considered for an LRAC allocation, researchers need to justify the scientific need for the request, and be able to use at least 250,000 node hours (with 56 cores per node) annually, with a maximum award of five million node hours per project.

The projects on Frontera will utilize a total of 58.3 million node hours — approximately 80% of the total time on the system this year.

Among the recent awardees is Martha Constantinou, an assistant professor in the Physics Department of Temple University, who received an allocation of 3.5 million node hours on Frontera to perform large-scale lattice quantum chromodynamic of a variety of quarks — fundamental, but mysterious subatomic particles that make up larger particles like protons and neutrons.

"Our Frontera LRAC allocation award will be used to address open questions at the forefront of nuclear and particle physics, such as the mass and spin decomposition at the proton," Constantinou said. "These observables are relevant to the scientific program of the Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), the next-generation facility to be built at Brookhaven National Laboratory."

Gabor Toth (University of Michigan) will use Frontera to improve the accuracy and extend the lead time for extreme space weather events with the capability of crippling the globe. [Credit: Chen, Yuxi & Toth, Gabor & Hietala, Heli & Vines, Sarah & Zou, Ying & Nishimura, Yukitoshi & Silveira, Marcos & Guo, Zhifang & Lin, Yu & Markidis, Stefano]

Another awardee, Gabor Toth, a research professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, leads a major NSF- and NASA-funded effort to improve the state-of-the-art in space weather modelling. Toth was awarded 1.55 million node hours for two projects designed to improve the accuracy and extend the lead time for extreme space weather events with the capability of crippling the globe.

"Our combined physics model is extremely expensive," Toth said. "We often use 10,000 to 30,000 cores for a long time to do one simulation. And we don't want to just run one — we want to do parameter studies or study different events. Without Frontera, I don't think this research would be possible."

Ivan Oleynik, a professor of Physics at the University of South Florida, uses computer simulations to uncover fundamental properties of matter at extreme conditions.

"Our LRAC project will advance the frontiers of high energy density science of materials at extreme pressures and temperatures to make a major transformative advance in fundamental understanding of interiors of exoplanets," Oleynik said. "Access to Frontera will allow us to uniquely couple the multi-million-atom quantum-accurate simulations and dynamic compression experiments at advanced light sources, pulsed power and high-energy laser facilities by performing simulations at experimental time and length scales."

Some of the newly awarded projects require extremely large-scale simulations, of the type that only a handful of systems in the world can accommodate, said Tim Cockerill, director of TACC's User Services group.

"We will hold four, weeklong ‘Texascale Days' events this coming year for researchers to have exclusive access to Frontera as they run on at least half of the system all the way up to full system," Cockerill said. "We're honored to be able to help the U.S. research community push the frontiers of science and computation across a wide range of disciplines."

See the full list of awarded projects.


Contact

Faith Singer-Villalobos

Communications Manager
faith@tacc.utexas.edu | 512-232-5771

Aaron Dubrow

Science And Technology Writer
aarondubrow@tacc.utexas.edu

Jorge Salazar

Technical Writer/Editor
jorge@tacc.utexas.edu | 512-475-9411