Welcome to the Spring 2018 issue of PSC Science Highlights

PSC’s 32nd year of operations is off to an exceptional start, with multiple important initiatives in motion and some exciting new ones imminent. Those initiatives build on PSC’s leadership in converging high performance computing (HPC), artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data (BD) to enable discovery and accelerate innovation. This convergence lets researchers easily scale data analytics, modeling and simulation to tackle challenges vital to science and society. 

AI strategically cross-cuts PSC’s activities. We will soon launch an innovative initiative to bring cutting-edge AI solutions to research, education and academia and industry (watch our website and social media). On Bridges, our flagship system funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), 114 projects center on AI, and many others are beginning to include AI in their workflows for example, to detect formation of storm clouds in large-scale weather data. Bridges is also being used extensively by university courses. Significantly, 260 students are using Bridges for CMU course Deep Reinforcement Learning and Control, illustrating both the fantastic energy around AI and Bridges’ outstanding impact on education. 

Bridges is entering its third year of production. Its first two years have been outstanding. To date, Bridges has served 1,239 projects and 6,316 users, including numerous communities and applications that have not traditionally used high performance computing. Bridges recently enabled breakthroughs in, for example, understanding glioblastoma (a form of brain cancer) through deep learning, applying machine learning to develop new materials for energy applications including the first iron-bismuth compound, and revealing genetic changes induced by time spent in space in the NASA Twins Study. An innovative use of Big Data can be seen in our featured article, in which a Univerity of Pittsburgh team used Bridges as a cloud to advance our understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

The innovative Anton 2 molecular dynamics modeling system, hosted at PSC thanks to D. E. Shaw Research and operational funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), continues to provide stunning simulations of long-time-scale molecular interactions. Anton 2 continues to illuminate the sub-microscopic world of medically relevant molecules for example, powering a University of Delaware study of maturation—and the development of virulence—in HIV, the AIDS virus. A project headed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology used Anton 2 to unlock puzzles about the protein tubulin—the cell’s “Lego brick”—with possible applications in chemotherapy side effects, cancer and brain development. And there’s an exciting avenue of research that pairs Anton’s longer time scales with Bridges’ capacity for large-scale molecular modeling to create longer simulations of larger, medically-important systems. 

Our News Briefs section describes other advances made possible by PSC. The stunning poker victory last year of the Libratus AI, developed at CMU and run on Bridges, earned “Best Paper” at the prestigious NIPS 2017 conference and appeared in a much-anticipated article in Science. PSC, CMU, and Pitt joined to build a Brain Data Repository, part of the federal BRAIN Initiative. We were recognized for our Public Health Application Group’s flu vaccine research with a 2017 Innovation Excellence Award from the Hyperion Research User Forum Steering Committee. And HPCwire’s annual awards included five awards to PSC—a best-ever showing for any single site— including awards for data analytics, work on the CRISPR gene-splicing technology (shared with UCSD and SDSC), energy research (shared with Texas A&M and TACC), Libratus’s poker victory and outstanding leadership in HPC. 

We would like to thank our sponsors, especially NSF, NIH, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We’d also like to thank our staff for the superlative work that made all these successes possible.

Nicholas A. Nystrom, Interim Director