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Carnegie Mellon Researchers and Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Win Prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for High Performance Computing

Byron SpiceWednesday, November 26, 2003

PITTSBURGH - A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University ofPennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) won the 2003Gordon Bell Prize, one of high performance computing's most prestigiousawards.

The team was honored for developing earthquake computer simulations thatplay an important role in reducing seismic risk.

The Quake Project's large scale model calculations and computer animationshave pushed the capability of existing hardware and software systems.

"The Bell Prize recognized our recent Los Angeles Basin earthquakesimulations on PSC's 3000-processor LeMieux supercomputer," said JacoboBielak, CMU professor of civil and environmental engineering. "Thesesimulations provide unprecedented levels of resolution and detail and wereenabled by multiresolution wave propagation methods we have developed.Conventional techniques would have required 1000 times more computing powerto achieve the same accuracy," Bielak said.

One of the keys to making such large scale simulations possible is theability to create extremely large models of the L.A. basin.

"We have developed special algorithms and data structures that have allowedus to produce models containing several billion variables," said DavidO'Hallaron, associate professor of computer science and electrical andcomputer engineering at CMU. "These are among the largest models that havebeen produced in any field."

In addition to modeling earthquakes, the Bell Prize recognized the group'swork on the "inverse problem," which involves determining subsurfacegeology from observations of surface ground motion produced by pastearthquakes.

"The inverse problems we've been able to solve are an order of magnitudelarger and more complex than any previously attempted," said Omar Ghattas,professor of biomedical engineering and civil and environmentalengineering at CMU. "We had to develop new inversion methods to scale tothe millions of parameters that characterize such problems."

John Urbanic, a PSC staff computational science consultant, said itwouldn't have been possible without a system like LeMieux.

"This is a great honor for a team that has worked to accomplish majoradvances in our ability to model and understand earthquake behavior," saidChris Hendrickson, head of Carnegie Mellon's Civil and EnvironmentalEngineering Department. "Over a period of six years, they have collaboratedon a series of increasingly ambitious and influential computer models ofearthquake behavior, creating fully realistic three-dimensionalrepresentations of complex basin geology, earthquake sources and earthquakeresults," he said.

John L. Anderson, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering, saidthe award is another example of the university's successfulinter-disciplinary problem solving environment. "The project draws uponexpertise in computation science and engineering, computer science,earthquake engineering and seismology," Anderson said.

"At PSC, we're gratified that the Quake Group has received thisrecognition," said PSC Scientific Directors Michael Levine and RalphRoskies in a joint statement. "This research has important social impact.In short, it will save lives. It demonstrates the scientific contributionof high-end computational systems, such as LeMieux, and the value of closecollaboration among domain scientists."

The Gordon Bell Prize winners were announced Nov. 20 at the 2003Supercomputing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Gordon Bell Prize, awarded each year at the annual SupercomputingConference, was established in 1988 by Gordon Bell, a pioneer in computerarchitecture who taught engineering and computer science at Carnegie Mellonfrom 1966 to 1972. Bell, who spent 23 years at Digital Equipment Corp. asvice president of research and development, is a senior researcher inMicrosoft's Media Presence Research Group, part of the San Francisco-BayArea Research Center which maintains an interest in startup ventures.

Team members include Volkan Akcelik, Jacobo Bielak, Ioannis Epanomeritakis,Antonio Fernandez, Omar Ghattas, Eui Joong Kim, Julio Lopez, DavidO'Hallaron and Tiankai Tu of Carnegie Mellon; George Biros of theUniversity of Pennsylvania, and John Urbanic of the PittsburghSupercomputing Center.

More information about this research:

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is a joint effort of Carnegie MellonUniversity and the University of Pittsburgh together with WestinghouseElectric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by severalfederal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

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Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |