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UAPB welcomes Apollo supercomputer to campus

Students, staff, and faculty at the University of Arkansa at Pine Bluff were on hand for the arrival of Apollo. Image courtesy University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

From the discovery of the cell in 1665 to the Higgs particle in 2012, scientific research pushes boundaries to the very edge of possibility - and beyond – and the cycle then repeats. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), US, has been pushing boundaries since its founding in 1873 as Branch Normal College.

In November UAPB, the oldest and only public historically black institution in Arkansas, welcomed the Apollo supercomputer to campus. Students, staff, and faculty were on hand for the event. “Computational sciences and clusters are similar,” says Mansour Mortazavi, a physics professor at UAPB. “Sometimes I’m asked when my research will be finished. My answer is always the same – never. We, as humans, will never have enough computer memory or fast enough processors. We will always need parallel computing.”

Apollo will be managed by the department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (data analytics research/cybersecurity group), in collaboration with the departments of Agriculture, Biology (biotechnology research group), Physics, and Chemistry (nanosciences research group).

Mortazavi is planning to use Apollo to explore quantum optics modeling concepts, especially how a non-coherent light becomes coherent. “The number of photons in a laser system, even a low-power system, are enormous,” he explains. “For most modeling, these numbers are not practical due to the memory size and calculation time required.” The addition of the Apollo cluster will help mitigate that issue, providing a more realistic view of the calculations and better visualization of the concepts.

Training for UAPB students and faculty, as well as faculty throughout the state of Arkansas, is planned for January 2014. Encouraged to bring their own applications and code, attendees will be guided through the process of running on Apollo. Elementary and high school students will also have an opportunity to use the cluster. Still in the planning stages, a ‘Bring Your Own Bug’ day is slated for students to investigate their bug using a scanning electron microscope connected to Apollo.

For many students, the name Apollo conjures images from the US moon landing, the Apollo Theater, and mythological gods. For a new generation, the name Apollo may just conjure up a whole new world.

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