NSF awards over $680,000 to NCSA to lead development of the Einstein Toolkit

04.22.20 -

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded over $680,000 to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to further develop the Einstein Toolkit. The project focuses on improving the cyberinfrastructure framework provided by Einstein Toolkit, an accessible community-driven open source ecosystem that provides computational tools to advance research in relativistic astrophysics and gravitational physics.

The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Roland Haas, NCSA, and co-PIs, Helvi Witek, Department of Physics, and Gabrielle Allen, who holds appointments in the Department of Astronomy, NCSA and the College of Education.

"The Einstein Toolkit has been hugely successful in enabling scientists to study the most energetic processes in the Universe such as black hole and neutron star collisions as well as supernovae. Being a genuinely collaborative effort from the very beginning, it has allowed generations of young scientists to use and develop state of the art supercomputer code," says Haas. "With this new grant we will prepare the Einstein Toolkit for future computational challenges to run on the world's most powerful supercomputers and study more complex physical systems than ever before."

"The Einstein Toolkit is an organic, widely used cyberinfrastructure that has been designed by the scientific community for the community," says Witek. "As such, the toolkit's development is driven by scientific progress and innovation and will advance our key goal of training the next generation of scientists. For example, we are now in a position to address long-standing puzzles in modern physics that range from astrophysical phenomena in the dark matter quest to nuclear matter under extreme condition in the highly nonlinear regime of gravity that unfolds during the collision of black holes or neutron stars. The Einstein Toolkit, in tandem with research developments facilitated by our team's NSF-CSSI grant, will play a vital role in exploring these exciting phenomena."

This four-year grant is part of a $2.3 million collaborative effort between the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University, and West Virginia University, awarded through NSF's Cyberinfrastructure for Sustained Scientific Innovations (CSSI) program. The research team will address current and future challenges in gravitational-wave source modeling, improve the scalability of the code base, and support an expanded science and user community. The project stems from a previous NSF grant for collaborative research in community planning for scalable cyberinfrastructure to support multi-messenger astrophysics, which was awarded to Allen in 2018.

"One focus of the Einstein Toolkit is to develop and nurture a future generation of researchers, and we want to be intentional about increasing the diversity of these researchers," says Allen. "The Einstein Toolkit is an open source framework, with ready-to-run examples and tutorials, a help desk, and regular workshops and summer schools, and is accessible for all students wherever they are studying in the U.S. or around the world."

The Einstein Toolkit is utilized by many groups, including NCSA's Gravity Group, spanning all continents (with the exception of Antarctica), and is developed and supported in a distributed, collaborative manner. Its focus on community-based development has resulted in a large user base—to date, 282 registered users from 194 different groups and 40 countries. In addition, the toolkit supports simulations providing information on gravitational waveforms for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

"OAC is pleased to support community-driven software platforms that advance research in relativistic astrophysics that are relevant to Multi-Messenger Astrophysics," says Dr. Manish Parashar, office director for the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC) at NSF.

NCSA Director William "Bill" Gropp adds, "It is great to see this support for the Einstein Toolkit—building on NCSA's long history of creating and supporting software that accelerates the use of computing by computational scientists."

Read more about the collaborative frameworks research project, The Einstein Toolkit ecosystem: Enabling fundamental research in the era of multi-messenger astrophysics.