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Georgia Tech-Led Team Wins Gordon Bell Prize for Supercomputing

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Georgia Tech Associate Professor George Biros

Associate Professor George Biros at Georgia Tech's College of Computing led a team of researchers that won the 2010 Gordon Bell Prize in supercomputing for creating a simulation of 260 million deformable red blood cells flowing in plasma.

Credit: Georgia Tech

A team led by George Biros, associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Computational Science & Engineering (CSE), has won the Association for Computing Machinery's Gordon Bell Prize for the world's fastest supercomputing application. The award was announced Thursday (Nov. 18) at SC10, the supercomputing conference in New Orleans, LA.

Biros and his 11 teammates, which included colleagues not only from Georgia Tech but also from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and New York University (NYU), created a blood-flow simulation of 260 million deformable red blood cells flowing in plasma. The team ran its application on ORNL's Jaguar supercomputer. Using 196,000 of Jaguar's 224,000 processor cores, the application pushed the machine to 700 trillion calculations per second, or 700 teraflops. The simulation amounted to successful resolution of 90 billion unknown dimensions in space, and topped the previous largest blood-flow simulation (of 14,000 cells) by four orders of magnitude.

"We put this team together to tackle the mathematical and computational challenges associated with blood-flow simulation, and while our research is an important step, it is only a first step, which we hope to expand upon in the coming years," says Biros, who has a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. "Moving forward, I hope this award spotlights Georgia Tech's research and contributions to high-performance computing. We are honored to have received the prize and are truly grateful for the recognition of our work by our colleagues."

The simulation is described in a paper, "Petascale Direct Numerical Simulation of Blood Flow on 200K Cores and Heterogeneous Architectures," presented at SC10. Georgia Tech team members included assistant professor Richard Vuduc; research technologist Logan Moon; adjunct scientist Ilya Lashuk; graduate students Abtin Rahimian and Aparna Chandramowlishwaran (both Ph.D. students in CSE), and Aashay Shringarpure (M.S. student in computer science); and former undergraduate intern Dhairya Malhotra. ORNL team members included Future Technologies group leader Jeffrey Vetter (who has a joint appointment in Georgia Tech's School of CSE) and postdoctoral researcher Rahul Sampath. Associate Professor Dennis Zorin and postdoctoral researcher Shravan Veerapaneni were the NYU team members.

"We are very proud of George and all his teammates from such esteemed partner institutions as Oak Ridge National Lab and NYU," says Zvi Galil, John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech. "Supercomputing is the tool that will enable science to address some of the truly grand challenges of our time, from curing our most pernicious diseases to successfully predicting severe weather. At Georgia Tech we are committed to attracting the best high-performance computing researchers in the country—and giving them the tools they need to do their work."

Part of what made the team's accomplishment so impressive is that their application simulated not artificially spherical blood cells that retain their shape, but realistic cells that deform as they move through plasma. In announcing the award, Horst Simon, associate laboratory director for computing sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and a former Bell Prize winner), called the simulation a "very challenging multiscale, multiphysics problem" and its successful execution "a very significant accomplishment."

"We would like to thank the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy for their support and for providing the computational resources that made these calculations possible," Biros says. "Our long-term goal is to investigate the design of diagnostic microfluidic devices and develop a quantitative understanding of blood clotting mechanisms. The main challenge in modeling blood flow is resolving the hydrodynamic interactions between erythrocytes with the surrounding plasma."

The Bell Prize, named for supercomputing pioneer Gordon Bell, has been awarded every year since 1987 in recognition of the world's fastest supercomputing application. It carries a $10,000 cash prize for the winner.


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