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Carnegie Mellon Researchers and Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Win Prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for High Performance Computing

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PITTSBURGH, November 26, 2003 — A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) won the 2003 Gordon Bell Prize, one of high performance computing's most prestigious awards.

The team was honored for developing earthquake computer simulations that play an important role in reducing seismic risk.

The Quake Project’s large scale model calculations and computer animations have pushed the capability of existing hardware and software systems.

“The Bell Prize recognized our recent Los Angeles Basin earthquake simulations on PSC’s 3000-processor LeMieux supercomputer,” said Jacobo Bielak, CMU professor of civil and environmental engineering. “These simulations provide unprecedented levels of resolution and detail and were enabled by multiresolution wave propagation methods we have developed. Conventional techniques would have required 1000 times more computing power to achieve the same accuracy,” Bielak said.

One of the keys to making such large scale simulations possible is the ability to create extremely large models of the L.A. basin.

“We have developed special algorithms and data structures that have allowed us to produce models containing several billion variables,” said David O’Hallaron, associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at CMU. “These are among the largest models that have been produced in any field.”

In addition to modeling earthquakes, the Bell Prize recognized the group’s work on the “inverse problem,” which involves determining subsurface geology from observations of surface ground motion produced by past earthquakes.

“The inverse problems we’ve been able to solve are an order of magnitude larger and more complex than any previously attempted,” said Omar Ghattas, professor of biomedical engineering and civil and environmental engineering at CMU. “We had to develop new inversion methods to scale to the millions of parameters that characterize such problems.”

John Urbanic, a PSC staff computational science consultant, said it wouldn’t have been possible without a system like LeMieux.

“This is a great honor for a team that has worked to accomplish major advances in our ability to model and understand earthquake behavior,” said Chris Hendrickson, head of Carnegie Mellon’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. “Over a period of six years, they have collaborated on a series of increasingly ambitious and influential computer models of earthquake behavior, creating fully realistic three-dimensional representations of complex basin geology, earthquake sources and earthquake results,” he said.

John L. Anderson, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, said the award is another example of the university’s successful inter-disciplinary problem solving environment. “The project draws upon expertise in computation science and engineering, computer science, earthquake engineering and seismology,” Anderson said.

“At PSC, we’re gratified that the Quake Group has received this recognition,” said PSC Scientific Directors Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement. “This research has important social impact. In short, it will save lives. It demonstrates the scientific contribution of high-end computational systems, such as LeMieux, and the value of close collaboration among domain scientists.”

The Gordon Bell Prize winners were announced Nov. 20 at the 2003 Supercomputing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Gordon Bell Prize, awarded each year at the annual Supercomputing Conference, was established in 1988 by Gordon Bell, a pioneer in computer architecture who taught engineering and computer science at Carnegie Mellon from 1966 to 1972. Bell, who spent 23 years at Digital Equipment Corp. as vice president of research and development, is a senior researcher in Microsoft’s Media Presence Research Group, part of the San Francisco-Bay Area Research Center which maintains an interest in startup ventures.

Team members include Volkan Akcelik, Jacobo Bielak, Ioannis Epanomeritakis, Antonio Fernandez, Omar Ghattas, Eui Joong Kim, Julio Lopez, David O’Hallaron and Tiankai Tu of Carnegie Mellon; George Biros of the University of Pennsylvania; John Urbanic and Greg Foss of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with the Westinghouse Electric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.


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Chriss Swaney
Carnegie Mellon University

Sean Fulton
Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

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