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NCSA Receives Honors in 2020 HPC Innovation Excellence Awards

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NCSA has been recognized with two HPC Innovation Excellence Awards announced today by Hyperion Research.

The biannual awards recognize achievements by users of high-performance computing technologies. The program’s main goals are to help others understand the benefits of adopting HPC and justify HPC investments, especially for small and medium-size businesses; to demonstrate the value of HPC to funding bodies; to expand public support for increasing HPC investments; and to showcase return on investment and scientific success stories involving HPC.

The HPC User Forum Steering Committee performs an initial ranking of submissions, after which domain and vertical experts are called on, as needed, to evaluate them.

These awards highlight the innovative use of artificial intelligence that is transforming scientific research. They also illustrate the power of the Blue Waters supercomputer in research that benefits society.

William “Bill” Gropp, NCSA Director


Researchers from NCSA’s Industrial Applications Team and its Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation (CAII) and an undergraduate collaborator from the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign received an award for their work bringing together artificial intelligence and structural and meta-material design optimization. The team—NCSA Industrial Applications Director and MechSE Research Associate Professor Seid Koric, MechSE undergrad Hunter Kollmann, NCSA Postdoctoral Research Assistant Diab Abueidda, NCSA Research Scientist Erman Guleyruz, and CAII Affiliate Professor Nahil Sobh—used HPC and GPUs to develop cutting-edge deep learning models to predict optimized structural and meta-material designs while accounting for various nonlinear optimization scenarios thus demonstrating for the first time that it is possible to generate, machine train, and learn from modeling data on HPC. This research leverages NCSA’s iForge cluster and Blue Waters supercomputer, and physics-informed AI.

“Our team is humbled and thrilled to have received this award from Hyperion,” says Koric. “Our interdisciplinary research work in the confluence of artificial intelligence and numerical modeling has opened the door for drastically accelerating future design and optimization in highly nonlinear and complex materials, composite manufacturing, materials processing, and similarly computationally demanding workflows in academic research and industry.”


With the help of the Blue Waters supercomputer, Blue Waters Professor Kaiyu Guan, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Bin Peng, an NCSA scientist, and Jian Peng, an assistant professor from Department of Computer Science, implemented and evaluated a new crop growth model and developed multiple innovations in using satellite data and models to advance crop monitoring and modeling. The new model, named CLM-APSIM model combines superior features in both Community Land Model (CLM) and Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM), creating one of the most reliable tools for long-term crop prediction in the U.S. Corn Belt. What makes this model unique is the more detailed phenology stages, an explicit implementation of the impacts of various abiotic environmental stresses (including nitrogen, water, temperature and heat stresses) on maize phenology and carbon allocation, as well as an explicit simulation of grain number. This work is among many works from the research collaboration of Guan and Jian Peng in the area of crop monitoring and modeling using HPC and machine learning.

“We are extremely honored to receive this award from Hyperion,” says Guan. “Bin Peng, Jian Peng, and I are grateful that Blue Waters supercomputer provides unprecedented capability for our work, which allows us to integrate petabyte NASA satellite data and advanced earth system models together, further empowered by artificial intelligence, to pioneer the innovations in crop monitoring and modeling. We will continue this effort and use our work to create tangible benefits to farmers and society.”

Hyperion Research welcomes award entries from around the world. Entries may be submitted at any time by completing the application form. Submissions must contain a clear description of the impact their project had on the world or their industry.

HPC Innovation Excellence Award sponsors include Adaptive Computing, Altair, Ansys, the Council on Competitiveness, Cray, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Ford Motor Company, HPCwire, insideHPC, IBM, Intel, KAUST, the National Science Foundation, NCSA, and SGI.


Hyperion Research helps organizations make effective decisions and seize growth opportunities by providing research and recommendations in both high performance computing and emerging technology area. The HPC User Forum was established in 1999 to promote the health of the global HPC industry and address issues of common concern to users.


The National Center for Supercomputing Applications 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 these resources to address research challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing many of the world’s industry giants for over 35 years by bringing industry, researchers and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation through awards OCI-0725070 and ACI-1238993.

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