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12 Illinois faculty awarded prestigious Blue Waters Professorships

Twelve University of Illinois faculty members from a range of fields have been selected as Blue Waters Professors, an honor that comes with substantial computing and data resources on the Blue Waters supercomputer at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

“This extraordinary opportunity will boost the efforts of these outstanding researchers and will result in high-impact work that enhances the reputation of the University of Illinois,” said Illinois Provost Ilesanmi Adesida. “The Blue Waters Professors will be ambassadors for Illinois’ capabilities and expertise in computational science and engineering.”

The Blue Waters Professors were selected for this honor through a competitive process and this appointment confers a significant commitment of Blue Waters computing resources, up to 240,000 node hours per year. Many of these accomplished computational scientists are already using the supercomputer after receiving resources through the national allocation process (overseen by the National Science Foundation) or the campus allocation process. The resources they receive as Blue Waters Professors are in addition to these other allocations.

Blue Waters is one of the world’s most powerful supercomputer, capable of performing quadrillions of calculations every second and of working with massive amounts of data.

The Blue Waters Professors will give updates on their work in an upcoming lecture series.

For more information on Blue Waters, visit

The Blue Waters Professors

  • Aleksei Aksimentiev, associate professor, Physics, has done pioneering work on nanoscale biological and synthetic motors, transmembrane transport, and DNA replication that has resulted in the development of new computational strategies for modeling nano-bio systems and technological breakthroughs in DNA sequencing. He is using Blue Waters to determine the molecular mechanism of a key step in the DNA repair process.
  • Daniel Bodony, associate professor, Aerospace Engineering, is a lead principal investigator for the DOE Center for Exascale Simulation of Plasma-Coupled Combustion, which will develop a multiphysics computational fluid dynamics code and software tools that use exascale-class computers. He uses Blue Waters to study the noise pollution caused by commercial and military aircraft in order to improve near-airport community conditions and reduce hearing damage and its healthcare costs.
  • David Ceperley, Founder Professor of Physics, is one of the leading computational condensed matter theorists in the world; he is recognized for his pioneering work on developing computational methods applicable for treating many-body fermion and boson systems. His current research is related to the Materials Genome Initiative, the federally supported program to develop computational tools to design materials.
  • Bryan Clark, assistant professor, Physics, focuses on the application and development of computational methods to gain greater insights into many-body and strongly correlated physics. He is the co-author of the open-source Path Integral Monte Carlo Code (PIMC++), which is widely used to study finite-temperature systems at the quantum level. He joined the University in January 2014 after post-doctoral positions at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Microsoft Research, and the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science.
  • Larry Di Girolamo, professor and Daniel Shapiro Professorial Scholar in Atmospheric Sciences, has a long history of successfully using high-end computing resources for both computational modeling and processing of large satellite data sets. He uses Blue Waters and an advanced Monte Carlo radiative transfer model that he has developed and coupled to a weather prediction model to improve weather predictions and satellite retrievals of cloud properties.
  • Paul Fischer is well known for his research on numerical methods and software for computational fluid dynamics (CFD). His contributions have improved the accuracy and speed of complex CFD simulations. At Argonne National Laboratory he developed nek5000, a widely used CFD software package that can reliably scale to over one million processes, making it the most scalable software of its kind. He will join the University in July as a professor of Computer Science and Mechanical Science and Engineering.
  • William Gropp, Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science, is known for his research in parallel computing, software for scientific computing, and numerical methods for partial differential equations. He uses Blue Waters for research on the effective use of extreme-scale systems, which may require new algorithms and programming systems.
  • Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Swanlund Professor of Chemistry, focuses on the development and application of theoretical and computational methods for describing chemical reactions in condensed phases and at interfaces. The objective of her research is to elucidate the fundamental physical principles underlying charge transfer reactions. She has made important contributions to theories of proton-coupled electron transfer reactions, which play vital roles in a broad range of biological and chemical processes, including photosynthesis, respiration, enzyme reactions, and solar cells.
  • So Hirata, Alumni Research Scholar Professor of Chemistry, uses quantitative theories and computing technology to interpret and predict the properties and transformations of molecules, polymers, and solids. Using Blue Waters, he intends to predict a variety of properties of all molecular phases of ice and dry ice from first principles with expected impact on fields including high-pressure chemistry, geochemistry, and planetary science. He will also apply his newly developed, highly scalable stochastic algorithm of quantum chemistry to directly evaluate optoelectronic properties of molecules used in advanced organic materials, such as solar cells and light emitting diodes.
  • Athol Kemball, associate professor, Astronomy, uses Blue Waters to address problems in radio-interferometric image formation that are relevant to future large astronomical telescopes, such as the Square Kilometer Array. His team has developed a software framework implementing a novel solution to the problem of pixel-level uncertainty quantification and will deploy and optimize this framework for Blue Waters.
  • Andre Schleife, assistant professor, Materials Science and Engineering, uses accurate and predictive computational first-principles methods to study ground states, excited electronic states, and their dynamics in various materials, with the ultimate goal of gaining the knowledge necessary to design new and better materials. He joined the University in December 2013 after a post-doctoral position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
  • Klaus Schulten, Swanlund Professor of Physics, is world-renowned for developing and implementing powerful computational techniques for modeling and analyzing biomolecular structures that arise in living cells. He heads the NIH Center for Macromolecular Modeling & Bioinformatics and is co-director of the NSF Center for the Physics of Living Cells. He uses Blue Waters to simulate the physical and quantum physical properties of large-scale molecular assemblies, including recent work on the chemical structure of the HIV capsid, on the development of antiviral and antimicrobial drugs, as well as on the use of solar energy in photosynthetic organisms.

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