HPCwire Awards Highlight Supercomputing Achievements in the Sciences

By the Editorial Team

January 3, 2019

In November at SC18 in Dallas, HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice awards program commemorated its 15th year of honoring achievement in HPC, with categories ranging from Best Use of AI to the Workforce Diversity Leadership Award and recipients across a wide variety of industrial and research sectors. In this editorial, HPCwire highlights the awards that celebrated the biggest and brightest developments in HPC for the sciences in the past 12 months.

Recognizing HPC’s contributions to tackling global challenges

With the world rising to meet global challenges in energy production and climate change, 2018 became a banner year for HPC in the energy and climate sectors. A team from Northwestern University won the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of HPC in Physical Sciences, using the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges system (with Intel, Nvidia and HPE technologies) to discover more efficient compounds for use in lithium batteries and energy production – a potentially huge step toward drastically higher-capacity batteries for electric vehicles, among other applications.

The Readers’ Choice for Best Use of HPC in Energy celebrated another breakthrough achievement in energy science. Awarded jointly to the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and GENCI, the award recognized leaps toward the harvesting of “blue energy” – energy produced when seawater and freshwater meet and mix. These advances were made possible by advanced molecular simulations performed over nearly 30 million combined core hours on the MareNostrum and Curie supercomputers. “PRACE is pleased to receive this prestigious award from the readers of HPCwire,” said Serge Bogaerts, PRACE’s managing director. “It is a priority for PRACE to support excellent pioneering research which has a potentially significant impact to our society and strengthens European competitiveness.”

SciNet also used fluid dynamics to tackle global issues, winning the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Use of HPC in Physical Sciences in the process. As a part of stress testing the powerful new Niagara cluster, researchers used Lenovo and Mellanox technologies on it to create spatial resolution models of the Pacific Ocean. The models, led by Richard Peltier of the University of Toronto, seek to finally answer a theory of ocean dynamics proposed nearly 50 years ago. These more accurate models will help SciNet to improve the skill of its climate models, aiding projections of global climate change and assuring researchers that “when we do put an ocean model to work in the context of a global warming calculation … that we can feel secure that the physical process is properly represented,” Peltier said.

Recognizing HPC’s contributions to our grasp of the universe

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications won the Editors’ Choice Award for Best Use of AI for its use of deep learning for real-time gravitational wave discovery. This breakthrough allows astronomers to study gravitational waves more quickly while using less computational power. Furthermore, it allows for the detection of new classes of gravitational wave sources that may have gone undetected using other methods.

The Editors’ Choice Award for Top HPC-Enabled Scientific Achievement went to XSEDE, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the Open Science Grid (OSG) — in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University — for simulations that helped the NSF pinpoint the origin of cosmic neutrinos. The simulations were performed on the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Bridges supercomputer, SDSC’s Comet supercomputer and the OSG.

Recognizing HPC’s contributions to understanding health and the human body

Of course, massive calculations are not only for massive systems – a whopping five of HPCwire’s 2018 awards went to outstanding projects that used HPC to improve our understanding of health and the human body.

Two of those awards recognized efforts to understand the human brain. The Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of HPC in Life Sciences went to the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s Brain Image Library. Funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as part of the federal BRAIN initiative, the Brain Image Library allows researchers to “deposit, analyze, mine, share, and interact with large brain-image datasets” – affording them access to such high-resolution images that they can zoom in to the level of a single neuron or synapse.

The Editors’ Choice Award for Best Use of the HPC in Life Sciences, meanwhile, was awarded to an international team led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center and UC San Diego for research that may explain some of the genetic roots of neurodevelopmental disorders. The researchers used the Comet system, built by Dell EMC, to analyze the genomes of 9,274 subjects from 2,600 families and identify rare inherited variants in regions of non-coding DNA that may be linked to autism.

The Wellcome Sanger Institute also won an award – the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of HPC in the Cloud – for its work in genomic analysis. Using a private OpenStack cloud IT environment, the Sanger Institute enabled the sequencing and assembly of 100 complete human genomes per day. This work is part of the UK Biobank Vanguard project, which will sequence 50,000 genomes from volunteers.

“I’m delighted for the teams, who thoroughly deserve this award,” said Tim Cutts, head of scientific computing. “Their creativity and dedication to overcoming the unique challenges posed by storing and analysing genomic data means that we are not only able to cope with, but can also explore at scale, the vast volume of data being generated by our sequencing operation, and to deliver that capacity quickly. Winning the Readers’ Choice award is especially humbling as it means that our peers worldwide acknowledge the groundbreaking work of our scientific computing and informatics teams.”

Researchers from the NIH and the University of Delaware won the Readers’ Choice Award for Best HPC Collaboration (Academia/Government/Industry) for their research in the fight against HIV. Working with the Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center and using the D.E. Shaw Research Anton 2 supercomputer, the team discovered a “brake” that disrupts HIV’s development, preventing the protein shell that covers the virus from forming. “Science is moving away from the single scientist being able to peer at things at atomic resolution,” said Tatyana Polenova, professor at the University of Delaware. “It’s no longer the situation of doing one thing as a single investigator. Now, we all come together.”

NASA, meanwhile, examined somewhat more peculiar stressors on the human genome, with its Twin Study winning the Readers’ Choice Award for Best Use of HPC High Performance Data Analytics. Using Bridges’ large-memory nodes, NASA examined the genomic differences between twins Mark Kelly (earthbound) and Scott Kelly (an astronaut). The study represents the first application of genomics in evaluating risks that space can pose to the human body.

Recognizing revolutionary HPC systems in the sciences

NASA — in partnership with HPE — also won the Readers’ Choice Award for Top HPC-Enabled Scientific Achievement, having launched the first supercomputer into space and kept it fully functional for an entire year. The one-year mark is a crucial goal for the Spaceborne supercomputer, with a year being roughly the amount of time it will take a ship to travel to Mars.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, IBM, Nvidia and Mellanox won both the Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards for Top Supercomputing Achievement for the launch of the Summit and Sierra supercomputers — the world’s #1 and #2 fastest supercomputers, respectively. Summit has already been making its mark on science, with five of 2018’s six Gordon Bell Prize finalists using Summit in their work.

The project responsible for advancing the United States’ future leadership supercomputing capabilities — the Exascale Computing Project — was also recognized, receiving the Editors’ Choice Award for Best HPC Collaboration (Academia/Government/Industry). The Exascale Computing Project is a collaborative effort by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to accelerate delivery of a “capable” exascale system by working with other federal agencies and technology vendors in a “whole-of-nation” approach. Application development is a core thrust.

Recognizing leaps forward for scientific institutions

Not all leaps forward for HPC in science are purely scientific. The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) South Africa in collaboration with TACC, Cambridge University, Dell EMC, and the Department of Science & Technology (South Africa) were recognized by HPCwire readers with the Workforce Diversity Leadership Award for leading the re-purposing and re-deployment of high-performance computing systems in Africa under the HPC Ecosystems Project. The project is responsible for re-deploying decommissioned HPC systems across the African continent as a means to facilitate computational science, human capital development, and in all cases to further HPC-awareness in Africa.

HPC Ecosystem Team with Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire, at SC18

Our Editors’ Choice Workplace Diversity Leadership Award went to the National Science Foundation for its INCLUDES program, which looks to enhance U.S. leadership in STEM fields by proactively seeking and developing talent from all sectors and groups. “NSF INCLUDES addresses populations largely missing in the current science and engineering enterprise,” said NSF director France Córdova. “Their inclusion is essential in helping the U.S. maintain its position as the world’s leader in innovation. Through NSF INCLUDES, we are funding researchers and others who have great proposals that would move the needle.”

The HPCwire Readers’ and Editors’ Choice Awards are a way for our community to recognize the best and brightest innovators within the global HPC community. To see the full list of the 2018 winners, click here.

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