U.Va.–Va. Tech. High-Performance Computing Boot Camp to Educate Faculty, Researchers about Computational Science

July 30, 2007 -- The University of Virginia, in conjunction with Virginia Tech, will host a free “High-Performance Computing Boot Camp” on Aug. 7-10 and 13-16, to introduce faculty, graduate students and research professionals to the basics of high-performance parallel computing and the national cyber-infrastructure.

Held primarily on U.Va.’s Grounds, the training workshop will include one-day trip to Virginia Tech’s Visualization Facilities in Blacksburg, Va., on Aug. 16.

Computational science — the use of advanced computing capabilities to understand and solve complex problems — is the new wave of research methodology with a variety of applications and implications. On hand to explore these implications will be camp instructors Andrew Grimshaw, professor of computer science at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Nicholas Polys, postdoctoral associate at Virginia Tech’s Advanced Research Computing Center.

Boot camp attendees will learn the basics of moving from sequential to parallel computing systems and come away with an understanding of the opportunities and challenges of data visualization tools and display technologies. Participants will also learn about the inner workings of supercomputers, how to optimize sequential applications, and the locations of and accessibility to high-performance computing resources nationwide.

“The landscape of scholarly research is evolving,” says James H. Aylor, dean of U.Va.’s Engineering School. “Computational science is one of the most important technical fields of the 21st century because it provides a unique window through which researchers can investigate problems that are otherwise impossible to address — problems ranging from biochemical processes to weather patterns.”

This camp is one of the first steps the University is taking to answer a call issued in June 2005 by the U.S. President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee’s (PITAC) report titled Computational Science: Ensuring America’s Competitiveness. The report spoke to the necessity of the comprehensive understanding and dissemination of this methodology as critical to scientific leadership, economic competitiveness and national security.

In 2006, Dean Aylor commissioned a University-wide computational science initiative and task force. Led by Mitch Rosen, chief technology officer at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science; Grimshaw, and John Hawley, professor in and chair of the Department of Astronomy, the Task Force on Information Technology Infrastructure Supporting Research in Engineering and Science was charged with producing a set of recommendations that would ultimately improve the culture of computation at the University.

In October 2006, the Engineering School received a $250,000 two-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a sequence of undergraduate and graduate courses in computational science.

According to James Hilton, U.Va. vice president and chief information officer who was instrumental in moving many of the task force’s suggestions forward and advancing U.Va.’s Computational Science Initiative, “This boot camp and the courses the NSF grant has made possible are the important milestones in leveraging experts and resources to bring computational science — in a very real way — to the University. The understanding of computational science is essential to enhancing U.Va.’s science and engineering capabilities and long-term technological leadership.”

NOTE TO MEDIA: Members of the press are invited to cover the events, which are not open to the general public.

About the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science

Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young men and women to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University’s highly ranked medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,200 undergraduates and 700 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For more information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.