Researchers' Night 2016
Every year from 2005, the researchers’ nights take place in all European countries and this year HPC-LEAP fellows Simone Bacchio, Srijit Paul, Aurora Scapellato and Salvatore Cali have participated in the one organized in Cyprus, at Filoxenia Conference Center in Nicosia. The European Researchers' Nights are events dedicated to popular science and fun learning. They represent an opportunity to meet researchers, talk to them, and find out what they really do for society, in an interactive and entertaining way.
For this purpose, the HPC-LEAP fellows prepared a booth dedicated to the HPC-LEAP joint doctorate program. The shared their experience as researches and explain the essence of the doctorate program, which is a multinational European project and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020. In the booth there were several posters, a TV screen and laptops. All these tools helped to show the state of the art in the fellow’s research.
The posters were meant to explain the main ideas of the HPC-LEAP project: 15 students collaborating in an international network on interdisciplinary research topics (Lattice QCD, Computational Biology, Turbulent Flows, Modelling and Algorithms, HPC architectures and technologies). The focus was on the central thread of the project which is High Performance Computing for Life Science, Engineering and Physics, as the name of the program states.
Our booth at the researchers’ night
The main goal has been to promote numerical simulations as an additional tool to handle problems which cannot be solved by experimental or theoretical approaches. Thus the fellows have highlighted, helped by the videos on the TV screen and simulations on the laptops, how HPC is particularly useful in Engineering and Science, providing incredibly efficient tools, very far from the standard technologies.
The TV screen has been really useful to interact with the students and to attract their attention. Nice animations of supercomputing simulations, shootings of supercomputing facilities (where we currently perform fellows’ simulations) and didactic videos about the scale of the universe and particle physics were projected. Supercomputing simulations in biology and astrophysics impressed significantly the students. The fellows aslo prepared simple simulations on the laptops and hands on exercises about some mathematical algorithms.
Srijit entertaining middle school student with a simulation about the universe expansion
Salvatore showing a mathematical algorithm for evaluating integrals
In the morning they received students from the elementary, middle and high schools. In this case they’ve used a more catching approach talking about general physics, astronomy and biology. The videos showing simulations of the expansion of the universe and DNA-protein interaction have caught mostly their interest. The fellows have been quite impressed by the good english level. The morning has been really positive and eventful.
General discussion with a group of students
Aurora and Salvatore explaining the HPC-LEAP programm
In the afternoon the conference center was opened to general public. The audience was varied, from families with children to researchers and specially students looking for research opportunities. Depending on the people asking, the fellows used different approaches talking about numerical simulations in physics, characteristics of supercomputers and comparing the supercomputing facilities around the world. The fellows asked people to give them an idea of how many everyday computers make a supercomputer. The typical answer was firstly 10, then 100 and really rarely they reached 1000. The answer always astonished them and hearing that a supercomputer performs million of times faster than an ordinary computer was useful to give an idea of the size of HPC-LEAP simulations.
Salvatore and Srijit introducing physics student to the PhD opportunities
Another interesting point was explaining the interdisciplinary in HPC-LEAP research which does not rely only on the knowledge of biology or physics, but requires as well good skills in computational science and applied mathematics. Indeed, the fellows always look forward to apply in their studies new tools coming from HPC architectures and mathematical algorithms for increasing the performance of the simulations codes. So undergraduate students from all over the science world and with different interests have been attracted to HPC-LEAP work.
Supercomputer facilities are really cool! Yes, sometimes debugging a code can drive even the hardiest student to distraction, but when you realize that your program runs properly, you feel really satisfied and proud of your work.
The fellows’ meeting with the students was interesting and pleasant, because apart from explaining what the specific research consists of, they talked about the possible applications of computer science.
Simone talking with a father and his daughter about our research
For the HPC-LEAP it has been the first time participating in a researchers’ night. We will all keep a very good memory, because these events are really enjoyable and motivate people to get closer to Science and Technology in a fun way. It has been a pleasure to drive people through the highways and byways of the amazing world of High Performance Computing applied to Biology, Physics and Engineering.