Foreword from the Directors, 2006

Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies

Michael Levine (left) and Ralph Roskies, PSC co-scientific directors, with BigBen, Cray XT3 serial #1.

Scientific progress at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center during the past year centers around our Cray XT3 system, BigBen, which has proven itself to be a massively-parallel powerhouse.

As this publication demonstrates (pp. 18, 22, 26, 30, 34, 43, 45, 46), the XT3 is making possible projects and resulting new insights that would have been unthinkable before PSC brought this system into being last year as a production resource for the TeraGrid. Our work with the TeraGrid, NSF’s program to transform the nation’s research capability, is advancing (p. 4), with emphasis on both scientific output and community building with PSC contributing the same staff excellence and leadership that has sustained our work for the past 20 years.

Along with celebrating our 20-year anniversary (p. 6), we moved into a new building with office space designed for PSC use. The National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing, PSC’s biomedical program, received five-year renewal funding from the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (p. 10).

Our work as part of the Supercomputing Science Consortium (p. 8) and our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory take on renewed importance in the context of increasing awareness of the need to develop alternative fuels. Science is our reason for being, and we’re pleased to have enabled significant new research.

Some of it hints at how much more can be achieved with petascale computing, only a few years away, and for which we are preparing ourselves and the community. Among these projects is important work from Klaus Schulten and colleagues (p. 22) in understanding a very large multi-protein complex, the nuclear pore complex, which is prelude — thanks to the XT3 — to even bigger, similar projects already underway at PSC.

Michael Klein’s group has had many successes with PSC systems over the past decade. Their work on the metallo-beta-lactamase enzyme (p. 22) has crucial public health implications. The powerful LSMS software developed at Oak Ridge has opened new insight into magnetic nanoparticles (p. 26). New thinking about how stars form (p. 30) is the result of Mordecai-Mark Mac Low’s simulations on LeMieux, and through his work PSC simulations are part of “Cosmic Collisions,” a planetarium show produced by the American Museum of Natural History that will reach millions of people.

Close to home, Carnegie Mellon astrophysicist Tiziana Di Matteo made productive use of the XT3 during its “friendly-user” shakedown phase, and the result (p. 34) is major new understanding about how black holes are integral to cosmic structure. In economics and other social sciences, supercomputing is an emerging resource. John Rust is a leader in applying these tools in this field, as evidenced by his work with the life-cycle model (p. 38).

Our success with BigBen and in other phases of our work is testimony to the knowledge, experience, creativity and energy of PSC’s staff. We are grateful for the support we receive from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and many others.