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UK Supercomputer,
Eighth Among American Universities,
Fuels Critical Research

By Dan Adkins and Jennifer Bonck

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"For 15 years, UK has aggressively established itself as a major national center for supercomputing. Our acquisition of this machine, along with our plans to make another upgrade next spring, signals a continuing and deepening commitment to providing the tools that our scientific and academic researchers need to expand the boundaries of knowledge."

-- John Connolly, director of UK's Center for Computational Sciences

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Aug. 29, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- The University of Kentucky's supercomputing capacity ranks eighth among American public and private universities, thanks to a Hewlett-Packard supercomputer now assisting researchers on and off campus.

The H-P Superdome supercomputer handles 700 billion calculations per second, enabling researchers across campus to obtain results more quickly. Research areas that are benefiting from the supercomputer include biochemistry, pharmacy, medicine, mechanical engineering, physics and astronomy, and others.

"The computer has become the laboratory," said Gene Williams, vice president for fiscal affairs and information systems.

UK's supercomputer also has implications beyond this campus. The supercomputer is connected to a network that permits researchers across the country and around the world to use it in their work.

"For 15 years, UK has aggressively established itself as a major national center for supercomputing. Our acquisition of this machine, along with our plans to make another upgrade next spring, signals a continuing and deepening commitment to providing the tools that our scientific and academic researchers need to expand the boundaries of knowledge," said John Connolly, director of UK's Center for Computational Sciences.

UK's supercomputer ranks 109th among the world's military, governmental, industrial and academic supercomputers, and eighth among American universities, according to a semi-annual listing prepared by the University of Tennessee and Mannheim University, Germany.

Connolly said about 300 researchers, all but 75 on UK's campus, have used the supercomputer. The research ranges from critical projects on investigating causes and potential cures for cancer to developing industrial applications for capturing excess paint in automobile manufacturing.

Kozo Saito, a mechanical engineering professor and director of the Paint Technology Consortium in the Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems, uses the supercomputer to perform research through simulations. His work has helped Toyoto Motor Manufacturing Co. to develop new equipment to make automobile painting more efficient.

"I appreciate the support that UK gives to research," said Saito.

H. Peter Spielmann, associate professor of biochemistry in the UK College of Medicine, uses the Supercomputer’s enhanced technological capabilities and memory capacity to conduct complex research in cancer. Genetic research such as his may one day allow researchers to better understand cell damage, and thus, more effectively treat the disease. Specifically, Spielmann uses the technology to create simulations of DNA molecules, much like “DNA movies.” Using the “movies,” his research team tracks the complicated movements of between 10,000 and 20,000 atoms in less than one second. The simulations allow the scientist to see each and every atom, an impossible task without the aid of powerful computing capacity.

"The supercomputer allows us to conduct research that is applicable to all types of cancer," Spielmann said.

Thirteen researchers at other Kentucky universities also access the supercomputer: nine at the University of Louisville, three at Transylvania University and one at Eastern Kentucky University.

Connolly said the university's investment in the supercomputer - about $1.3 million in fiscal 2001-2002 - has helped the university attract more than $5.5 million in research grants over the same period. Since 1997, the university has invested nearly $6.5 million in upgrading its supercomputers, while researchers using the equipment have received grants exceeding $14.5 million.

The computer's power is more than 1,000 times greater than the fastest desktop computers now available, he said. The supercomputer uses 224 processors and offers 448 gigabytes of random access memory and 5 trillion bytes of disk space.
UK officials plan another computer equipment upgrade within the next year, Connolly said. In all likelihood, that machine will be able to handle more than 1 trillion calculations per second.


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