Physics  College of Engineering 

Massachusetts Recovery & Reinvestment Office visits UMass Dartmouth

State officials from the MA Recovery & Reinvestment Office visited UMass Dartmouth on March 2nd, 2011 and met with researchers that have benefited from the federal Recovery Act. In the Physics Department, they met with Dr. Tandon, Dr. Fisher and Dr. Khanna, all of whom have received funding recently from the Recovery Act. Details of their research grants appear below.

NSF: Importance of Submesoscal Processes for Ocean Productivity, $328,384 (Amit Tandon)Dr. Tandon's stim study supports many outreach efforts connected to the underlying science. Based on the science, research faculty have conducted a summer workshop for teachers, used experiments in school outreach and have spoken at high school symposia. Since ocean productivity plays a major role in supporting the ocean ecosystem including fisheries, understanding the processes that initiate and support phytoplankton blooms in the ocean is important. Since part of the carbon absorbed during the bloom sinks to the ocean bottom, this also has implications for long-term carbon storage, and hence, climate. The observational and modeling work supported by the grant shows that ocean blooms are initiated and supported by three-dimensional upper ocean kilometer scale undulations, filaments and eddies.

NSF: Acquisition of a Heterogenous Terascale Shared Campus Computing Facility, $199,480 (Robert Fisher)The National Science Foundation has awarded $200,000 to UMass Dartmouth to acquire a cutting-edge supercomputer to advance research across the campus. This supercomputer will harness the power of graphical processing units -- the same processing units existing in every computer and game machine -- to tackle challenging problems in astrophysics, applied mathematics, oceanography, and materials science. "This new supercomputer will boost the computing capability of researchers at UMass Dartmouth enormously,'' said Dr. Robert Fisher of the Physics Department, the principal investigator on the grant. "This will truly be a world class resource for our scientists and will place our students at the forefront of simulation-based research." The high-performance computer will enable researchers to model complex phenomena and conduct numerical experiments related to medicine, the environment, economic competitiveness, and national security. It will also provide a platform for expanding interdisciplinary research into such areas as digital-information systems, climate change and environmental observation, computational biology and medicine, and imaging and human-computer interaction. The goal of the project, Fisher said, is to unleash the power of graphics processing units (GPUs) that exist within computers and game machines. GPUs possess enormous untapped computational capability, but are now limited to creating graphics on a screen. "Imagine that every Honda Civic carried a Ferrari V12 engine in the trunk, which was never used," Fisher said. "This is essentially the situation with every computer on the planet."

NSF: Alternative Technologies for Numerical Relativity and LIGO Data Analysis, $160,560 (Gaurav Khanna)
The goal of this project is to explore the use of alternative computing technologies, such as gaming consoles, multimedia workstations and similar hardware for scientific computing. The key aspect of these technologies is that they use a processor that is based on a heterogeneous approach --- using elements from both traditional CPUs and GPUs. The progress thus far, has demonstrated that such an approach can yield a significantly higher cost effectiveness (measured as performance-per-dollar and performance-per-Watt) as compared with traditional compute clusters. Thus, this project is likely to have serious implications for cluster computing and scientific computing, in general. More specifically, the project is focusing on investigating the performance of such hardware for projects in numerical relativity and (LIGO) data analysis. If such clusters yield the expected benefits, searches of LIGO data and simulations of gravitational wave sources could move into computer intensive regimes not now possible. The project involves undergraduate and graduate students in research, and therefore contributes directly to student research and advancement. In addition, the research has established national and international collaborations, between individuals and institutions. The PI also frequently participates in outreach activities thus promoting science awareness and public knowledge on current scientific research.

Author: "Gaurav Khanna [Contact]"
Date: 17-3-2011

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