Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
November 21, 1994                                 Michael Schneider
                                                  Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Scientist Honored for Heart Research
at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

PITTSBURGH -- For his research on blood flow in the heart, much of which was accomplished on Cray supercomputers at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Charles Peskin received the 1994 Sidney Fernbach Award. Peskin, a scientist at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, was honored for helping "to develop supercomputing technology as a valuable tool for improving the quality of human life."

The award recognized Peskin for a sustained research effort, extending over more than 15 years, that led to the development of a realistic three-dimensional computational model of the heart, its valves and nearby major vessels. Through this work, Peskin has pioneered a method of mathematically modeling how fluids interact with flexible, elastic boundaries like the muscle fibers and valve leaflets in the heart.

In earlier work, Peskin and his colleague, David McQueen, developed an improved design for a prosthetic mitral valve, the valve that controls blood flow between the left atrium and left ventricle. The redesigned valve, which reduces the likelihood of blood clotting, has been patented and is under consideration by a heart valve company for development and eventual clinical use.

Much like a wind tunnel, the three-dimensional model acts as a test chamber for assessing normal and diseased heart function. It will make it possible to address many questions that are difficult or impossible to address in animal research and clinical studies.

Through workshops at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and through scientific literature, PeskinŐs method for modeling fluid flows that interact with flexible boundaries -- called the "immersed boundary method" -- has become a prevalent tool in computational research. A number of other researchers are now applying it to other biological flow problems such as fluids in the inner ear, clotting in blood vessels and how fish swim.

The Sidney Fernbach award, established in 1992 by the Computer Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), is given annually to recognize "outstanding contribution in the application of high performance computers using innovative approaches." The award, which honors the memory of the late Dr. Sidney Fernbach, one of the pioneers in development of high-performance scientific computing, includes a $2,000 honorarium. The award was presented November 17 at the Supercomputing '94 conference in Washington, DC.

In his award lecture, Peskin noted that his ability to carry out heart modeling depends upon the availability and ever increasing power of computers such as the CRAY C90 at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, was established in 1986 by a grant from the National Science Foundation with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to develop and make available state-of-the-art high-performance computing for scientific researchers nationwide.

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Related article, with graphics, from Projects in Scientific Computing, PSC research report.

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