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Six PhD students from across the country selected as Blue Waters Graduate Fellows

Six outstanding computational science PhD students from across the country have been selected to receive Blue Waters Graduate Fellowships for 2015-2016. The fellowship program, now in its second year, provides graduate students in diverse fields with substantial support and the opportunity to leverage the petascale power of NCSA’s Blue Waters supercomputer to advance their research.

“These fellows are all exceptional scholars,” says William T.C. Kramer, Blue Waters director. “It will be exciting to see them achieve great progress with a cutting-edge system like Blue Waters and the support of this program.”

The 2015-2016 fellows

  • Thomas Allen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, proposes to use a new quantum-classical simulation method to study the proton transfer reaction in triosephosphate isomerase, a major contributor to the pathway that converts glucose to energy.
  • Maureen Brooks, University of Maryland College Park, plans to investigate the mechanisms that enable the seaweed Sargassum to provide habitat for fishes, turtles, and microorganisms in a nutrient-poor area.
  • Justin Drake, University of Texas Medical Branch, will investigate proteins, focusing on simulation of intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs), which may fold, unfold, or redistribute their conformational ensemble upon binding to their targets.
  • Joshua Méndez, Georgia Institute of Technology, will investigate the electrification of ash particles in volcanic plumes. This causes the brilliant displays of lighting that often accompany volcanic eruptions, but also can be used to remotely monitor eruptions.
  • Larissa Reames, University of Oklahoma, aims to quantify the relative importance of environmental changes due to alterations in surface roughness, thermal characteristics, and their interaction within urbanized areas on thunderstorm dynamics.
  • Samuel Totorica, Stanford, will simulate magnetic reconnection in laboratory laser-driven plasmas. These simulations will be used to guide laboratory astrophysics experimental programs, and shed light on cosmic ray acceleration.

The fellows will receive a year of support to advance their research, including a tuition allowance and stipend, an allocation on Blue Waters, and funds to support travel to the annual Blue Waters Symposium. Over three years, this fellowship program will award more than $1 million and over 30 million core equivalent hours to support graduate research.

Blue Waters is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, and is the fastest supercomputer on a university campus, with more aggregate memory and data capabilities than any other openly available resource. Scientists and engineers across the country use the computing and data power of Blue Waters to tackle a wide range of challenging problems, from predicting the behavior of complex biological systems to simulating the evolution of the cosmos. Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois.

The next call for applications for the Blue Waters Graduate Fellowship program will be in the fall of 2015. For more information about the program and the current fellows, visit

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