Dr. Joel R. Primack
The purpose of the University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HiPACC) is to realize the full potential of the University of California world class resources in computational astronomy.
We now live in the early stages of a revolution in supercomputer-aided discovery. Supercomputer simulations are increasingly able to extract hidden meanings from enormous sets of observational data, and explore “what if?” questions based on solid physics.
Thus, answers to fundamental questions of astrophysics are now coming within reach of computational exploration: How did the first galaxies form? Why do some galaxies host supermassive black holes? Why do some stars catastrophically explode? How many Earth-like planets are orbiting other stars? What are their atmospheres like? Do they have moons like ours? Why is the Universe expanding? And why is that expansion accelerating?
The University of California is home to some of the world’s leading computational astrophysicists, as well as to earth and planetary scientists, observational astronomers, applied mathematicians and computer scientists. The entire UC system is so geographically far-flung, however, that multidisciplinary collaborations can be a challenge. Moreover, some major supercomputer facilities are housed not within the UC system but in Department of Energy National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research center. Although individual UC campuses and National Laboratory teams are fairly well funded, in the past we have not routinely shared knowledge, postdocs, students, or computing resources.
That is now changing. The purpose of the University of California High-Performance AstroComputing Center (UC-HiPACC), which began operating in January 2010, is to realize the full potential of the University of California’s world-class resources in computational astronomy. Through its annual intensive UC-HIPACC international summer school focused on a special topic in computational astronomy, UC-HiPACC is introducing the next generation of graduate students and post-docs to hands-on experience with the best available codes on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Indeed, UC-HiPACC is fostering interdisciplinary collaboration to advance the state of the art in computation and data storage and analysis. Through travel grants and other funding opportunities, UC-HiPACC is promoting cross-fertilization among scientists with complementary expertise within the UC system and affiliated national labs, thereby fostering a tradition of system-wide collaborations is empowering researchers. In short, we hope that UC-HiPACC can become a model for encouraging system-wide collaboration in other fields.
What are UC-HiPACC’s long-term goals? We’d like to be the nucleus of a center of astronomical computation, helping astrophysicists effectively utilize new generations of computers to simulation and analyze how the universe works, and helping to promote the scientific foundation for the new generations of telescopes. We’d also like to develop industrial partnerships with California companies such as Intel, Nvidia and Google. We’d also like to create one or more major science institutes for projects such as the Thirty Meter Telescope—projects that would bring together theorists and observers to collaborate more closely in designing programs and instrumentation essential to our nation, while also highlighting California’s contribution.
We hope you will join us in this grand collaboration!