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New Pathways and Large-Scale Community Partnerships awards expand Frontera's research impact

Published on June 15, 2020 by Aaron Dubrow

Frontera will support two Large-Scale Community Partnerships projects to analyze particle accelerator experiments at the Large Hadron Collider: one related to the ATLAS Detector and another to provide computing for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment.

This week, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has approved allocations of supercomputing time on Frontera — the fastest university supercomputer in the world and the 5th fastest overall — to 26 science and engineering projects for 2020-2021 through the Pathways and Large-Scale Community Partnerships (LSCP) programs.

The allocations to researchers at 24 universities across 16 states represent the first cohort of Frontera users selected through these programs. Projects began on June 1, 2020.

"The new cohort of users on Frontera represents the diversity of our nation's Science & Engineering research enterprise," said Amy Friedlander, Acting Office Director, NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. "NSF funded the Frontera project to serve as a unique compute and data analytics resource for our nation, to inspire early-career scientists and engineers at the cusp of new transformative discoveries, as well as support critical long-lived scientific experiments that will enable the research of hundreds or thousands of scientists and students."

Pathways allocations are designed to provide compute time to science teams with a strong scientific justification for access to a leadership-class computing resource. Successful applicants will use the allocation award to work with the Frontera team to scale their codes in order to effectively use the system.

The Large-Scale Community Partnerships (LSCP) allocations provides extended compute time for up to three years to support long-lived science and engineering experiments.

Initial Material Point Method (MPM) model of the 2014 Oso landslide discretized with 3 million material points (Liang, Kumar, Soga., 2020).

"The Pathways allocations opportunity is for research teams who are on the verge of running at extremely large scale — thousands of nodes — and provides not only computing time but also support from TACC HPC Consulting staff as they prepare to apply for the larger LRAC allocations," said Tim Cockerill, TACC User Services Director. "The LSCP allocations fill a void by providing research projects serving large numbers of researchers who would otherwise find it difficult to compete for allocations as an individual researcher."

Among the awarded Pathways projects are:

  • Efforts to quickly develop new drug candidates — including for COVID-19 — using computational design by biochemists at the University of Washington. (David Baker, Principal Investigator)
  • Pioneering attempt to model geological-scale landslide hazards by environmental engineers at The University of Texas at Austin. (Krishna Kumar, Principal Investigator)
  • Simulations to explore the physical ingredients of star formation by astrophysicists at Northwestern University. (Michael Grudic, Principal Investigator)

"We are delighted to have been awarded the TACC Frontera Pathways allocation to perform geological-scale simulations of landslides," said Krishna Kumar, assistant professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at UT Austin. "We are excited to simulate the mechanical behavior and run-out evolution of a real landslide such as the Oso landslide in the US and the Kaikoura landslide in New Zealand, providing insights on the mechanisms of large-runout failures. TACC Frontera offers an unprecedented compute capability to pioneer geological-scale hazard assessment and will revolutionize earthquake-induced landslide research."

Examples of LSCP projects awarded time on Frontera include:

  • The Frontera-Event Horizon Telescope Partnership, led by Chi-kwan Chan (University of Arizona)
  • Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) Earthquake Modeling, Ground Motion, and Hazard Simulations, with Christine Goulet (University of Southern California) as Principal Investigator.
  • Two projects to analyze particle accelerator experiments at the Large Hadron Collider: one related to the ATLAS Detector led by Robert Gardner (University of Chicago), and another to provide computing for the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, led by Kenneth Bloom (University of Nebraska at Lincoln).

"The ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider continues to analyze data from previous years while gearing up for the next collider runs," said Robert Gardner, a research professor in the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and a physicist on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. "Frontera will be used to produce ATLAS detector simulations for new physics signatures and to prepare for the high luminosity upgrade of the LHC."

Pathways project can receive up to 250,000 node hours on the system — including time on Frontera's two graphics processing unit (GPU)-based subsystems. LSCP awards are capped at 1 million node hours annually, but can span three years, with years two and three awarded after successful completion of a progress review.

Frontera is an NSF-funded leadership-class computer system designed to be used by the most experienced academic computational scientists in the nation. In 2018, NSF awarded TACC a $60 million grant to design and build the system, and another $60 million to operate the system for five years.

Frontera was deployed in September 2019 and since last fall, teams of early users — selected by NSF or granted discretionary access to the system — have successfully used Frontera for science.

Pathway awards will be made quarterly and LSCP allocations will be awarded annually. The allocations complement the Leadership Resource Allocations — the largest distributions of compute time available — which were awarded to 49 teams in March.

Said TACC's Cockerill: "We're excited by the quality and diversity of the projects awarded time on Frontera and look forward to supporting transformative research on the system."

[See a full list of Pathways and Large-Scale Community Partnership awardees.]


Faith Singer-Villalobos

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Aaron Dubrow

Science And Technology Writer

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