OE2C funding expands SMU commitment to powerful ManeFrame high-performance computing

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SMU is increasing faculty and student access to ManeFrame, one of the most powerful high-performance computers at a U.S. academic institution.

High-performance computing has emerged as the most broadly transformative research tool of the 21st century, enabling modelling of complex systems, such as the climate, or analyzing “big data” to enable rapid and informed business systems.

Using funds reallocated from SMU’s OE2C initiative, system administration of ManeFrame is being expanded to ensure the SMU Center for Scientific Computing is operational 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That minimizes downtime of this complex system and maximizes faculty and student computer processing time for their research.

The expansion includes a programming specialist, who has been hired to assist faculty and students across the disciplines to develop programs to access the power of high-performance computing. A second programming specialist will be hired in coming months. Most importantly, the OE2C initiative will also enable financial investment in future systems that will ultimately replace ManeFrame, according to Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies James Quick.

“High-performance computing has become essential to research across numerous disciplines, from the natural sciences, medicine, and engineering to finance and the arts, and it enables pursuit of new research directions as they emerge,” Quick said.

Leading universities will be expected for the foreseeable future to provide high-performance computing in support of research and education. The OE2C initiative is ensuring that SMU will not be left behind, and will be a leader in this arena, he said.

“OE2C is providing essential financial support needed to realize SMU’s vision of becoming the liberal-arts university of choice for students desiring to use high-performance computing in their field of interest, be it science, engineering, business and finance, or the arts,” Quick said.

“SMU competes nationwide for hard-to-get external research grant funding, and to attract top students. Resources like Maneframe help with both those efforts,” said John Wise, associate professor in biology. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, SMU biology professor Pia Vogel, director of SMU’s Center for Drug Discovery, Design and Delivery, and Wise use ManeFrame to search for chemical compounds that can ultimately be developed into drugs to treat cancer.

“SMU’s commitment to first-tier research is tangibly obvious with resources like Maneframe. Training graduate students and attracting top undergraduates to our University with the prospects of using a resource like Maneframe at the graduate and undergraduate levels is not common; most universities have no such resource,” Wise said. “The thrill of excitement in one of our undergraduate researcher’s eyes when she kicked off her first massively parallel computational experiment on Maneframe was priceless — an experience she, and I, won’t soon forget, and one that is simply not available at most other universities.”

High-performance computing also enabled SMU’s physics department to play a substantial role in the data-intense international collaborative search for the Higgs boson, the newest fundamental particle. SMU was one of only six U.S. universities contributing to a landmark scientific paper for discovery of the Higgs.