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NCSA group wins Original Undergrad Research Award at Engineering Open House

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications’ (NCSA) Gravity Group has been awarded First Place for Original Undergrad Research at Illinois’ 2018 Engineering Open House (EOH) for their work, “What Have in Common Artificial Intelligence, Supercomputers and Black Hole Collisions?”

EOH is an annual student-led event featuring two days of exhibits and competitions that showcase the talent and ingenuity of engineering students at the University of Illinois. It is the University’s largest student-run event, attracting more than 20,000 visitors annually.

“I am both excited and caught off guard by winning this award. I am so proud of the work that is being done by our group and I am honored that we have been recognized for it,” said Derek Glennon, “The idea of two black holes colliding is always a very interesting topic to discuss with people, because it is so foreign for most people, yet the basics of it can be relatively easily understood which is what makes presenting this work so fascinating.”

“Being a mentor for students is one of the most rewarding parts of being a scientist, especially working with students at Illinois is both a challenge to keep up with them and a joy to see students succeed. I am proud to see the Gravity Group students win during the Engineering Open House,” said Roland Haas, NCSA senior research programmer. “Mentoring this group of superb students has been a fantastic experience. They have gone above and beyond the expectations we set at the beginning of their research projects. This prize recognizes the breadth and depth of the transdisciplinary research we conduct in the Gravity Group, and the broader impacts of this program nurturing the next generation of scientists,” said Eliu Huerta, NCSA Gravity Group Lead.

The NCSA Gravity Group studies multiple areas of contemporary gravitational wave astrophysics and multi-messenger astrophysics.

Their research depends heavily on using NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer. For many of them, the NCSA SPIN (Students Pushing Innovation) program has enabled them to do cutting edge research in simulation, modeling and large data analytics. A successful partnership with NCSA’s Innovative Systems Lab (ISL) has enabled them to fully exploit hardware donated by NVIDIA to the NCSA Gravity Group to advance their research on artificial intelligence.

“Having access to high performance computing environments and learning how to use them allowed me to work on various analyses of gravitational waves generated by binary black hole mergers. Working with the NCSA Gravity Group allowed me to obtain a concrete idea of what research really means and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of a community of such amazing people,” said Gravity Group member Adam Rebei who is a junior at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School.

Their Gravity Group’s research has been featured in several articles published in Physical Review D and Classical and Quantum Gravity, and presentations at both NCSA and the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois. Additionally, members of the Gravity Group will be presenting their work at one of the most prestigious physics conference in the country, the 2018 American Physical Society April Meeting, and will participate in the 2018 NCSA Gravity Group Spring Symposium, hosted at NCSA on May 11.

The NCSA Gravity Group is a niche of interdisciplinary research, which is clearly reflected in the background of its student members:

Pablo Brubeck, Senior, College of Engineering and Department of Physics
Paolo is an international exchange student, visiting from Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Monterrey. Research: development of algorithms to compute initial data for numerical relativity simulations of black hole and neutron star mergers with the open source, numerical relativity software, the Einstein Toolkit.

Derek Glennon, Senior, Department of Physics and Department Astronomy
Research: numerical modeling of black hole collisions using the Einstein Toolkit in the Blue Waters supercomputer. Data quality czar, he ensures that the numerical relativity waveforms used by the group meet the required standards of convergence.

Zixin Huang, Senior, Department of Statistics and Department of Computer Science
Research: use artificial intelligence algorithms to infer the astrophysical origin of black hole collisions with gravitational wave observations.

Daniel Johnson, Senior, Department of Physics and Department of Computer Science
Research: numerical modeling of black hole and neutron star collisions using the Einstein Toolkit in the Blue Waters supercomputer. Development of open source software to monitor and post-process the data products of large-scale numerical relativity campaigns in high performance computing environments.

Adam Rebei, Junior at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School
Research: numerical modeling of black hole collisions in dense stellar environments using the Einstein Toolkit in the Blue Waters supercomputer. Scientific exploitation of numerical relativity waveforms to shed light on what we can learn from gravitational wave observations of black holes that collide in globular clusters and galactic nuclei.

Vedant Puri, Junior, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Mathematics
Research: development of fast and accurate algorithms that provide initial data to numerically evolve the dynamics of black hole and neutron star systems in supercomputer simulations.

Sibo Wang, Junior, Department of Computer Science and Department of Astronomy
Research: novel methods to train artificial intelligence algorithms at scale in the Blue Waters supercomputer.

The group is supported by NCSA, the National Science Foundation and NVIDIA.

About NCSA

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students, and collaborators from around the globe use advanced digital resources to address research grand challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing one third of the Fortune 50® for more than 30 years by bringing industry, researchers, and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

About the Blue Waters Project

The Blue Waters petascale supercomputer is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, and is the fastest sustained supercomputer on a university campus. Blue Waters uses hundreds of thousands of computational cores to achieve peak performance of more than 13 quadrillion calculations per second. Blue Waters has more memory and faster data storage than any other open system in the world. Scientists and engineers across the country use the computing and data power of Blue Waters to tackle a wide range of challenges. Recent advances that were not possible without these resources include computationally designing the first set of antibody prototypes to detect the Ebola virus, simulating the HIV capsid, visualizing the formation of the first galaxies and exploding stars, and understanding how the layout of a city can impact supercell thunderstorms.

For more information

Kristin Williamson
Senior Assistant Director, NCSA
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Public Affairs / Marketing / Facilities
Office: 217-300-2933
Cell: 217-343-1594

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