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NCSA was honored to be included in a plethora of awards during this year’s Supercomputing Conference (SC20), which ran virtually from November 16-19, 2020. From agriculture to visualization and a variety of domains in between, NCSA researchers and collaborators have continued NCSA’s proud tradition of award-winning research that transcends traditional domain boundaries.

In 2020 especially, the work of the research community is more important than ever, and NCSA is excited to be one of many moving parts in the herculean efforts of scientists worldwide as we face some of the largest human challenges in recent memory. Collaboration is a pillar of NCSA’s foundation, and these awards are a testament to that commitment, including the nation-wide Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) collaboration, headquartered at NCSA.

SC is when the HPC community gathers together to celebrate our progress, learn where the community is going, and find new partnerships to accelerate the advancement and use of HPC.

William “Bill” Gropp, NCSA Director

These awards highlight the power of HPC and the power of the partnerships and collaborations that we build and grow at every SC. NCSA is proud to be a part of these efforts and to be recognized for its innovative application of HPC to such a wide range of applications.

Learn more about each award here:

HPCWire Editors’ Choice Award – Best Use of HPC in Physical Sciences (Eliu Huerta)

  • An Editor’s Choice award for Best Use of HPC in Physical Sciences went to NCSA for work conducted by NCSA’s Center for Artificial Intelligence Innovation using supercomputers at PSC and TACC through an XSEDE compute resources allocation. The NCSA team obtained a correction factor that will allow for fast, accurate simulations of neutron star mergers for gravitational wave observatories.

HPC User Forum and Hyperion Research Award – HPC Innovation Excellence Award (Kaiyu Guan)

  • 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 using satellite data and models to advance crop monitoring and modeling.

HPC User Forum and Hyperion Research Award – HPC Innovation Excellence Award (Seid Koric)

ACM Gordon Bell Prize – Gordon Bell Special Prize in HPC-based COVID-19 Research (James “Jim” Phillips, winning team)

  • The 2020 ACM Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research was presented to a 12-member team for their project “AI-Driven Multiscale Simulations Illuminate Mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Dynamics.” The Prize is being awarded in 2020 and 2021 to recognize outstanding research achievement toward the understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of high performance computing (HPC). Team members include James (Jim) Phillips, Senior Research Programmer, Blue Waters Project Office, as well as many long-time Blue Waters partners and collaborators.

SC 20 Scientific Visualization & Data Analytics Showcase – Best Visualization (David Bock)

  • Using the state-of-the art Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) atmospheric model with water tracers, we are able to trace the moisture that originates from the Amazon rainforest. This is analogous to putting dye in the model’s hydrologic cycle. By visualizing the output of this model we were able to show, for the first time, that the diurnal cycle of transpiration provides a clear diurnal signal to the overlying atmospheric water vapor and can be visualized as a “beating” over the Amazon.

XSEDE-associated Awards

HPCWire Editors’ Choice Award – Best Use of HPC in Energy (XSEDE)

  • As part of an allocation from the NSF Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) cyberinfrastructure program, researchers from Georgia Tech and the Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Vietnam used TACC’s Stampede2 supercomputer and SDSC’s Comet supercomputer—both XSEDE-allocated resources— to identify four lead-free candidates for a more efficient, cheaper alternative to the silicon used in solar panels.

HPCWire Editors’ Choice Award – Best Use of High Performance Data Analytics & Artificial Intelligence (Allocated via the COVID-19 HPC Consortium)

  • Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University used PSC’s Bridges and Bridges-AI supercomputing platforms to apply the awesome power of AI to the quantum mechanics of small molecules targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Their new method will accelerate and improve the accuracy of screening new candidate drugs against the virus that causes COVID-19. The time on PSC’s computers was awarded to the researchers through the COVID-19 HPC (High-Performance Computing) Consortium, of which PSC is a leading member.


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.

XSEDE is supported by National Science Foundation through award ACI-1053575.

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