First-year INCITE researchers headline strong 2016 in advance of 2017 call for proposals

Note: Jack Wells, director of science at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, wrote the following article to help kickoff the 2017 INCITE Call for Proposals.

At the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), we know that using a supercomputer can be challenging. Almost every year, a portion of our users are renewed for another allocation. Many of our regular users have spent decades honing their computing abilities to efficiently use America’s fastest supercomputer for scientific research.

However, experience is only one aspect of gaining access to our Titan supercomputer. Our center isn’t considered world-class purely on the basis of having a world-class machine. The OLCF has a robust training and tutorial program, available online, that can help new or prospective users learn how to do everything from sending data around the OLCF’s various computational resources, to debugging code, to learning the most efficient way to checkpoint simulation progress. Our user support staff is not only capable of helping, but takes pride in its extremely positive feedback from our customers.

The OLCF offers users from a variety of scientific disciplines and experience levels multiple ways to gain access to Titan. In addition to the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program—the OLCF’s primary mechanism for awarding time on Titan and our other resources—we offer time through the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) office, where researchers can win time through the ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) program. Projects that show promise for making use of Titan may also receive Director’s Discretionary hours to accelerate and/or scale their project up and apply for an INCITE or an ALCC allocation.

All this is to say that new users or scientists relatively new to supercomputing are welcome on our machines as much as our seasoned users. There are multiple avenues for gaining access to our computing resources, and prospective users can respond to the INCITE request for information to get more details, or can request information from us through the OLCF help line. Users can also apply for a Director’s Discretionary project first. For more information about getting started at our center, we have a getting started page.

I encourage any and all researchers to apply for time through the INCITE program. The call for proposals begins on April 13, 2016 and will run until June 24, 2016, or for nine weeks. You can find the application form here. For some examples that show one doesn’t need years of experience to be a user at the OLCF, check out some of our new users in this year’s INCITE 2016 program.

Frank Jenko, from UCLA, gained 75 million processor hours on Titan to study plasma turbulence for a variety of different aims. His research addresses two major DOE Grand Challenges—the desire to understand turbulent dissipation in space and astrophysical plasmas as well as understanding magnetic plasma confinement in hopes of building a sustainable fusion reaction to cleanly and safely power our lives.

Thomas Miller, from Caltech, is using his allocation of 40 million processor hours on Titan in collaboration with experimentalists to better understand the chemical and material properties of lithium ion batteries, aiming to create safer, more stable, energy efficient batteries to power our lives. Miller’s team has a detailed plan for using growing its simulations over the next three years on Titan, giving our leadership team confidence in the team making strides in making safer batteries.

Leonid Zhigilei, from the University of Virginia, received 10 million processor hours on Titan, and is working on understanding how lasers can structure and influence metals at the nanoscale. Research such as Zhigilei’s—trying to keep track of thousands or millions of subatomic particles in a simulation—benefits greatly from supercomputing power, as experiments at the subatomic level are expensive and can be difficult to deduce any meaningful information.

These are just several of the new and exciting projects happening at the OLCF this year. We would love you to apply for time and join in on the exciting research being done here that requires leadership-class computing. -Jack Wells

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit