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Last Updated:

Thursday, 16-Sep-2010 19:22:57 MDT


A High Performance Computing Cluster
Dedicated to the Energy Sciences

The Colorado School of Mines (CSM) has acquired and maintains a high performance computing (HPC) cluster, RA.Mines.Edu, bringing a new dimension of capability to research in the energy sciences. RA is administered by the Golden Energy Computing Organization (GECO). This facility is a national hub for computational inquiries aimed at the discovery of new ways to meet the energy needs of our society. As the performance of leadership computing facilities continue to advance, it will become increasingly vital to invest in such discipline specific nodes to bridge between the top tier platforms and smaller clusters.

This research was supported in part by the Golden Energy Computing Organization at the Colorado School of Mines using resources acquired with financial assistance from the National Science Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Intellectual Merit of HPC Activity
Seven key challenge topics have been chosen which have strong local expertise and are poised to make significant advances through the addition of the HPC cluster at CSM. The university has collaborated with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), both within a few miles of CSM, to identify these thrust areas and respective leaders. The seven research challenge topics are described below, and each are being carried out by scientists at the top of their field from CSM, NREL and NCAR. All projects include team members who perform experimental inquiries synergistic with the computational objectives. The investigations cross several disciplines and target technological payoffs with time scales from several months to several decades.

Broader Impacts Resulting from the HPC Activity
The seven initial projects, while important on their own, will continue to catalyze the development of a culture of HPC inquiry in the energy sciences and resulting in a more ambitious institutional research horizon. Unified in energy theme, shared facilities, student education and training, joint presentations, and interactions with research support staff, these challenge topics create a campus culture in energy-focused HPC that will have a broader societal impact than the discoveries associated with any individual investigation. The facility promotes activities which cross disciplinary lines to foster links between education, scientific inquiry and industrial pursuits bringing together scientists and engineers that cover a broad spectrum of energy-related research. National efforts to discover and develop new sources of energy have been positively impacted by the creation of this GECO cluster.

The new GECO cluster is an integral part of a recently approved five-year program between Engineering Physics and Computational and Applied Mathematics, wherein physics undergraduates complete an M.S. degree focused on scientific computing. An analogous program will be instituted for Petroleum Engineering, and a Ph.D. minor in High Performance Computing is planned. In order to better serve the Denver industrial sector, a Professional Certificate in High Performance Computing will also be created. Finally, the new facility will enable CSM to implement a training program in HPC maintenance—viewed by the faculty as a critical aspect of HPC education.

A multi-faceted outreach program has been established to maximize the benefit of the GECO facility to underrepresented groups. Salish Kootenai College, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, is a partner in this activity. The interaction is intended to enhance the educational experience of students in their recently established B.S. degree in Computer Engineering.