In 2003, the SimCenter arrived at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, setting up shop with its array of state-of-the–art computing and research technology.
Over the next 20 years, it became a beehive of activity, with projects that range from analyzing fuel cells to provide for ever-expanding energy needs to testing cybersecurity systems that prevent hackers from prying to predicting how a submarine might navigate rough waters.
The U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, TVA and Volkswagen have been customers.
As the number, size and importance of its projects have built, so has the reputation of the SimCenter. It has grown so prominent that computer science experts from all over the world attended—either in person or virtually—a recent conference hosted by the center.
From Sept. 26-30, 105 researchers from the U.S., Canada, France, Brazil, Japan, Spain, Australia and Germany—among others—participated in the SimCenter conference. They discussed the future of high-performance computing, also known as supercomputing, at the combined International Workshop on OpenMP, EuroMPI USA and The MPI Forum.
“Part of our whole center’s mission is high-performance computing. So for our 20th anniversary, we bid on hosting them,” said Dr. Anthony Skjellum, director of the SimCenter, housed in the Multi-Disciplinary Research Building on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“Folks came here to talk about how they build the infrastructure—or the plumbing—of high-performance computing programming.”
Along with working on an international scale, the SimCenter also provides support for computer science students at UTC. After completing their research with help from SimCenter technology, students have landed jobs at national research labs such as Oak Ridge in Tennessee and Los Alamos in New Mexico—and companies such as Intel and SpaceX.
“They’re taking the knowledge we provide them and taking it into jobs in one of the national labs, for example. And that pipeline’s continuing,” Skjellum said.
Dr. James Newman, head of the UTC Department of Mechanical Engineering, said the SimCenter’s technology gives students the opportunity to work with equipment now used worldwide.
“These are the same software and modern computing environments employed in many industrial and government laboratories,” he said. “Training and experience such as that provided by the SimCenter is a rarity in academia, giving UTC students an advantage in the job market.”
Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Daniel Pack said the SimCenter “has provided both faculty and students at the College of Engineering and Computer Science with unmatched computational resources to enable them to conduct a variety of research in health, manufacturing, energy and military applications.
“The resources offered by the center will continue to foster interdisciplinary research across disciplines at UTC,” he said.
These days, high-performance computing is needed for everything from drug discoveries to hurricane prediction to national security systems for the U.S. government. At this point, the number of calculations supercomputers can perform in one second is one quintillion—or 10 with 18 zeroes behind it.
“The systems have gotten much more complicated, so we have to go with that,” Skjellum said. “There are lots of lessons learned with new ideas, things that go wrong. Basically, it’s how to program better these newest machines and machines that are coming soon.”