Southeast Students, Faculty Optimize Knowledge at Supercomputing Symposium

group_2Seven Southeast Missouri State University students and three faculty members from the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture advanced their supercomputing knowledge Sept. 20-21 at the Oklahoma Supercomputing Symposium 2016 at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

“Since we are in the early stages of building our own in-house supercomputing capabilities, our visit to the symposium was a great way to build awareness and enthusiasm for supercomputing on our campus,” said Dr. Marcus Bond, Southeast professor of chemistry. “We hope, on our return, we will have a core group of faculty and students who are excited about supercomputing, and we can start having group discussions about which directions we want to pursue next.”

Student participants in the symposium included Joe Niswonger, a chemistry and cybersecurity double major from Cape Girardeau; Gregory Hapgood, computer science major  from Perryville, Missouri; Arham Chowdhury, a physics major from Chittagong, Bangladesh; Faizel Khan, a computer science major from Jaipur, India; Chandrashekhar Singh, a computer science major from Patna, India; Syuleyman Solak, a computer information systems major from Cape Girardeau; and CJ Nervo, a cybersecurity major from Hawaii. Faculty participants included Dr. Ali Abu-Nada, instructor of physics and engineering physics; Dr. Sean Marc Gottlieb, assistant professor of chemistry; and Bond.

At this year’s symposium, participants attended a reception and poster session and participated in a supercomputing tour on Sept. 20. Posters covered advanced computing research projects and technical innovations from vendors and attending universities.

In addition at the symposium, Bond served as a discussant on a panel that participated in the 2016 Advanced Cyberinfrastructure Research and Education Facilitators (ACI-REF) Virtual Residency Aug. 7-13 in Norman, Oklahoma.

On Sept. 21, the Southeast contingent attended several sessions with guest speakers, including Henry Neeman, assistant vice president-research strategy advisor of Information Technology at the University of Oklahoma, and Dan Stanzione, executive director of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) – one of the largest supercomputing centers in the United States.

Bond said TACC “is on the cutting edge” of the latest supercomputing innovations.

“It was a good occasion for me and the students to meet with researchers and scientists from across the country,” Abu-Nada said. “Our visit to Oklahoma provided an opportunity for our students to be trained on supercomputers, and it enhanced our knowledge with new ideas. Our visit also facilitated collaboration between students and researchers in the field.”

Abu-Nada highlighted the recent work of Colten Peterson, a Southeast physics and engineering physics major from Cape Girardeau, who served as his Research Assistant in Spring 2016, working on a Quantum Computing Quantum Error Correction (QEC) project, which involved using Southeast’s supercomputer. During that time, Peterson enhanced his understanding and knowledge of supercomputing and Monte-Claro simulations. He also spent summer 2016 at NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) in California.

group_3“He is very enthusiastic to work in this field,” Abu-Nada said.

Abu-Nada’s primary area of research is in Quantum Computing and Quantum Error Correction, a relatively new field in science that studies theoretical computation systems (quantum computers) that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Quantum error correction is used in quantum computing to protect quantum information from errors.

Southeast began furthering its advanced computing efforts in 2013. Abu-Nada said Bond led an effort in November of that year to purchase a commercially built high performance computing cluster system from Advanced Clustering Technologies for use in the sciences. In discussions with that company’s leadership about future progress with this system, they suggested he attend the Oklahoma Supercomputing Symposium, which he did in 2015. There, he met representatives of XSEDE (eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment-xsede.org), a large National Science Foundation-funded consortium linking some of the fastest academic supercomputers in the country together in a network accessible to the broader research community.

“I went for the first time last year, not knowing what to expect, and was surprised at how useful it was,” Bond said.

When Bond returned to Southeast, he reached out to the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics to find other researchers who shared an interest in advanced computing. That’s when Abu-Nada said he became involved as an enthusiastic proponent in the development and management of Southeast’s supercomputing system.

During summer 2015, Bond also attended the Advanced Cyberinfrastructure-Research and Education Virtual Residency at Oklahoma University, a workshop designed to train specialists to better assist researchers and students in learning about and using advanced computing resources.

“He returned to campus to champion greater use of advanced computing at Southeast,” Abu-Nada said.

He said he plans to create a supercomputing research group with faculty and students in engineering, the sciences and computer science. In addition, he says a University grant this fall has provided him funding for a node to connect to the Department of Chemistry’s supercomputer.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the Department of Research and Grant Development for their help and support,” Abu-Nada said.

Bond, who was recently named an XSEDE Campus Champion for Southeast, said he hopes that participation in the symposium builds awareness and enthusiasm for supercomputing on Southeast’s campus and that students and faculty can make strong connections with the supercomputer community and become a part of it.

“As a result of my attendance at the symposium, I have met many different people in this community who have provided a great deal of help and inspiration in developing our program,” Bond said.

“The national supercomputer community is very welcoming and supportive,” he added.