Purdue team chosen to compete in international supercomputing competition

The 2019 Purdue student cluster competition team Purdue's 2019 Student Cluster Competition team. Front row (L to R): Insoo Hyun, Claudia Li, Kana Huang, Nan Wang. Back row (L to R): Callum Gundlach, Seth Maxwell, Shiwen Xu.

When the top undergraduate student supercomputing teams convene in Denver, Colo. later this month, Purdue will again be one of just 16 teams in the competition.

Claudia Li, a junior in neurobiology, is a veteran of the all-women Purdue squad that competed in the same competition last year. She couldn’t resist the opportunity to return for another year.

“I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the competition,” she says. “It’s high-stakes and I enjoyed the team dynamic; it’s a really positive, fun experience.”

In addition to Li, the 2019 Purdue team members are Nan Wang, a senior in computer science, Shiwen Xu, a senior in computer science, Insoo Hyun, a junior in computer engineering, Seth Maxwell, a sophomore in computer science, and Callum Gundlach, a freshman in first-year engineering, who was a member of the Harrison High School supercomputing team ITaP Research Computing staff worked with in 2017. Kana Huang, a sophomore in computer and information technology, is the team’s alternate.

This year’s team is advised by Betsy Hillery, ITaP Research Computing manager for high-performance computing services, with support from Research Computing staff members Chuck Schwarz, Alex Younts and Nicole Brewer. Younts and Brewer are themselves veterans of previous Purdue student cluster competition teams.

With help from their sponsor Dell, the students built their own supercomputer, on which they’ll run a variety of real-world scientific software applications. One of them is a mystery application that won’t be announced until the competition gets underway, something many of the team members say they’re especially excited about tackling. The team will be evaluated based on how much science they can accomplish during the 48-hour challenge, while staying under a specified power limit.

Each of the students will have a different area of specialization during the conference. Li is heading up the Reproducibility Challenge, a new initiative that asks the students to reproduce the results in a published scientific paper and submit their own paper discussing their work. Xu and Gundlach are working on the benchmarking applications, a measure of the supercomputer’s performance. Maxwell is in charge of VPIC, a code for simulating plasma flow, and Wang and Hyun are handling SST, a tool for simulating computer system designs.

At SC19, which takes place in Denver from Nov. 17-22, the Purdue students will compete against other student supercomputing teams, but they’ll also have the chance to take in other aspects of the conference, including lectures about high-performance computing, a mentoring program and a job fair.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how we’re going to be able to use the applications and also what the environment at the competition will be,” says Maxwell.

Writer: Adrienne Miller, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-496-8204, mill2027@purdue.edu.

Last updated: November 6, 2019