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Powering Research throughout the Lone Star State

Published on September 18, 2018 by Aaron Dubrow

Researchers from UT Arlington studied the genome of the Burmese python to uncover how the species' organs regenerate after feeding. It is just one of hundreds of projects where UT System researchers use TACC resources to make discoveries. [Credit: Todd Castoe]

The University of Texas at Austin is home to several of the most powerful supercomputers in the world — systems capable of calculating as fast as tens of thousands of ordinary desktop computers combined.

Built by, and housed at, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), they help researchers around the country, in every field of science and engineering, answer questions that otherwise would be beyond their reach.

Though TACC's impact is nationwide, since its inception, the center has aimed to help scholars across the state who are part of the University of Texas System (UT System). With 14 institutions that educate more than 230,000 students, UT System is one of the nation's largest systems of higher education, awarding more than one-third of all undergraduate degrees in Texas and almost two-thirds of all health professional degrees.

Map of UT System institutions

In 2010, the UT System Board of Regents funded a project known as the University of Texas Research Cyberinfrastructure (UTRC) initiative. The original $23 million dollar allocation was used to increase high-performance connectivity and computing capacity across all 14 UT institutions, support research projects, and foster stronger collaborations among scientists in Texas and around the world so UT System researchers can compete at the forefront of science and discovery.

Five years later, continuing to support the research mission of the System, the Board of Regents allocated additional funds to be used to enhance the connectivity and computing capabilities available to UT researchers and others throughout the state. Network speeds were again enhanced and TACC, in partnership with Texas A&M and Texas Tech, deployed a new generation of both the Lonestar and Corral supercomputers.

Through the UTRC project, TACC supports leadership in computational science throughout Texas, and attracts the best faculty and students to UT institutions.

Though researchers can use any of TACC's 14 supercomputers, one — Lonestar 5 — is specifically designated for academic researchers in the UT System and serves as the primary high-performance computing resource in UTRC.

With sustained performance of 1 petaflop, Lonestar can perform one quadrillion (10^15) floating-point operations per second. To match what Lonestar can compute in just one second, you'd have to perform one calculation every second for 30 million years.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers used Stampede2 to develop new control systems for wind turbines and farms that can harness more energy.
In the first half of 2018 alone, TACC supported Texas scientists on more than 800 active projects across many domains, and provided over 360 million hours of compute time for research.

Supporting Texas computational researcher goes beyond providing access to TACC's supercomputers. The center employs several dedicated computing experts, based in Houston, Dallas and Austin, to facilitate researchers who want to apply computing to their studies.

"Designing, building, and maintaining supercomputers is just the first piece of the puzzle to enabling research," said Joe Allen, a Research Associate at TACC. "We also put a lot of effort into creating some really unique platforms and services, and we provide direct support. We never want the technical challenge of using the systems to get in the way of science."

Whether through research into new types of cancer treatments or efforts to forecast hurricanes on the Gulf of Mexico, TACC resources are helping scientists perform important research statewide.

Below are highlights of scientific achievements from each of the UT Systems' campuses in recent years:


The University of Texas at Arlington
Todd Castoe's group used TACC's supercomputers to identify the genes that allow Burmese pythons to regenerate their organs after feeding.

The University of Texas at Austin
Clint Dawson, a storm surge expert at The University of Texas at Austin, used Lonestar5 to accurately predict where and when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma would hit the Texas and Florida coasts and how damaging they would be.

The University of Texas at Dallas
UT Dallas researchers used TACC supercomputers to develop and test new control strategies that can harness more energy from wind farms.

The University of Texas at El Paso
Researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso used the Stampede1 and Lonestar5 supercomputers to design artificial photosynthetic systems that can turn light into energy more efficiently.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Researchers used TACC supercomputers to understand the mechanics of chemical reactions and to unearth new ways of synthesizing compounds.

The University of Texas at San Antonio
Research from UT San Antonio used TACC systems to predict how chemical weapons disperse in the atmosphere to help the U.S. Army plan evacuations.

The University of Texas at Tyler
Researchers from UT Tyler used TACC's supercomputers to uncover the genetic roots of Yellow Canopy Syndrome, a disease causing tens of millions of dollars of agricultural losses in Australia.

The University of Texas Permian Basin
Researchers used Ranger and Lonestar to explore the emission of electrons from a gold surface when hit with a laser for use in future sensors.


The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Lindsay Cowell from UTSW collaborated with TACC to develop a web portal that lets researchers analyze high-throughput immune repertoire sequencing data to develop improved cancer treatments.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
B. Montgomery Pettitt and his research group explored protein folding in bacteriophage DNA and other systems using advanced computing resources at TACC and found that kinking is key to fitting DNA in small spaces.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Researchers from UT Health Science Center (UTHSC)'s McGovern Medical School, used TACC systems to design new kinds of dose-finding trials for combinations of immunotherapies.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio used TACC's supercomputers to interpret analytical ultracentrifugation experiments that help explain how viruses like West Nile replicate.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler
Pierre F Neuenschwander used TACC supercomputers to train future computational scientists as part of the Master of Science in Biotechnology degree.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
MD Anderson researchers used TACC supercomputers to develop and test a machine learning system that identifies head and neck cancers.

On September 20-21, TACC hosted a symposium of computational researchers from across the state of Texas where showcased their ongoing research involving TACC resources, attended and participated in Birds-of-a-Feather panel discussions, learned new and useful computing skills from a variety of tutorials, networked with other Texas-based researchers, and heard about the latest TACC systems and services. Read a recap of the event.

If you are a University of Texas System researcher interested in using TACC resources, visit the TACC UTRC Getting Started page to learn how to create an account and begin computing.

This feature is part of a TACC Special Report on Serving the State of Texas. TACC's leading role in the University of Texas Research Cyberinfrastructure (UTRC) initiative enables discoveries by scholars throughout UT System.

Read more of the Serving the State Report Features


Faith Singer-Villalobos

Communications Manager | 512-232-5771

Aaron Dubrow

Science And Technology Writer

Jorge Salazar

Technical Writer/Editor | 512-475-9411