Foreword from the Directors

Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies

Ralph Roskies and Michael Levine
PSC co-scientific directors.

We’re pleased to once again highlight research at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. This year’s report emphasizes the PSC staff and their critical role in enabling people outside PSC to use our technologies to conduct transformative research both efficiently and successfully.

Those of us absorbed in this work often take for granted what others may not fully appreciate — we are involved in an inherently transformative undertaking. As the microscope opened a huge unexplored realm to understanding, the technologies of supercomputing are a new lens for seeing the world and opening it to human understanding.

The results are manifest. Numerical weather prediction has since the 1960s completely transformed meteorology. When PSC set up shop twenty years ago, however, it was still taken as faith that weather at the scale of individual storms was inherently unpredictable. Our work at PSC in collaboration with the CAPS team at Oklahoma University has transformed this thinking. This spring we supported CAPS and NOAA in an unprecedented forecasting experiment (pp. 18-22) that built on our prior collaborations and took another very big step toward realizing storm-prediction technologies that will save lives.

We are doing critical work in the development of “clean” power. Our efforts in founding the Supercomputing Science Consortium (p. 8) and our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory have paid off in the development of coal-gasification technology (pp. 22-25) for a 285-megawatt power plant that will be, when it comes on-line in 2010, the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power plant in the world.

PSC’s National Resource for Biomedical Supercomputing (p. 12), supported by the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources, is a national leader in training life-science researchers in the use of computational tools. Two projects reported here — a pioneering simulation of protein-induced membrane curvature (pp. 26-29) and a surprising new insight into the mechanism of an important enzyme (pp. 30-33) — exemplify the breathtaking progress in biological understanding made possible by information technology.

Petascale computing — tens or hundreds of thousands of processors teamed to solve the most difficult problems — will soon be a reality. PSC staff are at the forefront of the know-how, algorithms and software that will be needed to exploit petascale computing. We are involved in a number of research collaborations — in cosmology, earthquake science and others — to hasten this progress. The turbulence work of Paul Woodward and David Porter (pp. 34-37), relying on the exceptional inter-processor bandwidth of our Cray XT3, is a powerful example of how these advances will transform science. As this article explains, these exciting developments would not have been possible without PSC staff.

Cosmology and astrophysics is exploding with data from new observations, and computational simulations are essential to gain meaningful perspective within this deluge of information. Here we report on the important work of Kazantzidis and Mayer (pp. 38-41) that has forced new thought about the “missing galaxy problem” of the cold dark matter model of the universe.

This publication is testament to the creative skill, dedication and experience of the people who are PSC. We are proud to join them in the work we do and 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.