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Cunnama solves galactic puzzles using supercomputer simulations

Pietermaritzburg born Daniel Cunnama recently graduated with a PhD from the University of the Western Cape under the supervision of Prof Catherine Cress. His research uses state-of-the-art supercomputer simulations run at the Centre for High Performance Computing to study galaxies and their environments. Simulations of this kind have become an essential tool for interpreting observations from telescopes and for planning future projects. Many of the results deal with observations that will be carried out by the SKA, particularly those involving neutral hydrogen and synchrotron radiation.

Cunnama completed his undergraduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a BSc in computational physics, a pioneering course at the time and one which he feels set him up well for his future career. "Using computers to solve complex problems is a vital skill for any astronomer," he believes.

He then participated in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Programme honours programme before returning to UKZN to complete an MSc in computational solid state physics. He has been a pioneer of simulation work in South Africa and has made major contributions to a flagship project at the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town. He has recently taken up an SKA SA postdoctoral fellowship at the University of the Western Cape and continues to work on questions in galaxy evolution and cosmology using supercomputers in collaboration with Prof Chris Power at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Western Australia.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 16:13

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Promoting a career in HPC

The centre is tasked with developing and growing the HPC pipeline in South Africa and as such, supports initiatives where it can showcase High Performance Computing as a career. University of Johannesburg's Soweto Science Centre and Science-tube hosted a series of lectures, interactive workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions at Miriyavhavha Technical Secondary School in Ha-Khakhu village, Vhembe Limpopo. The event took place over two days: Friday 28 February – Saturday 01 March 2014.

Lectures and workshops covered the following themes:

  1. Space Science, Astronomy and SKA
  2. Nanotechnology
  3. Energy
  4. Materials science
  5. The Solar System and beyond
  6. History of Science
  7. State of Science in South Africa
  8. Nuclear Science
  9. Mathematical topics
  10. Career Guidance/ Bursaries
  11. Computational Science, Technology and Innovation

CHPC used the platform to exhibit and showcase what a career in HPC entails. The interaction and response from the Grade 8 to Grade 12 learners who attended was outstanding and some now see high performance computing as a possible career when they previously did not know what a supercomputer was. Their parents welcomed the career interaction their children recived over the two days.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 13:12

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CHPC Researcher becomes FameLab Finalist


CHPC Materials Researcher and PhD student, Cliffton Masedi, has won the Limpopo round of the FameLab Competition for his presentation titled: "Energy Storage Technologies and High Performance Computing". He proceeds to the national finals to be held during the National Grahamstown Sci-Fest taking place from 11-15 March 2014.

Dubbed the 'idols' of science, FameLab is an international competition that gets people talking frankly about science. The competition aims to provide new opportunities for scientists to develop their skills as communicators. "If you cannot, in the long run, tell everyone what you have been doing, your doing has been worthless," once said Erwin Schrodinger (Nobel Prize winner in physics).

 The competition runs in more than 25 countries with the international final in the United Kingdom. Contestants are given a maximum of three minutes in which to impress the judges. Judges will look for exciting, engaging and charismatic talks that can be understood by a public, lay (non-science) audience. "The competition consist of two presentations, the second of which is most challenging as you are given an hour to prepare it and to make it make sense to the ordinary man on the street", said Cliffton.

Cliffton is excited about the opportunity to be the first representative from his province, "I want to show the world that we, in Limpopo can communicate our science".

For more information on the international FameLab competition, please click here.


Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 16:21

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SA Student Cluster Challenge Team Scoops Top Honours


Flying the SA flag

Team South Africa scooped overall top honours on 19 June 2013 at the international Student Cluster Challenge in Leipzig, Germany, achieving the highest aggregate points total for all the benchmarks included in the competition (Linpack and the chosen applications) and acing the interview with the judges. South Africa’s resounding success was unsuspected, dropping a few jaws in the hall since the country was first time entrant.
The Student Cluster Challenge is hosted by the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) and is an opportunity to showcase student expertise in a friendly yet spirited competition. The competition features small teams that compete to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of state-of- the-art high-performance cluster hardware and software. In a real-time challenge, teams of six undergraduate and/or high school students build small clusters of their own design on the ISC exhibit floor and race to demonstrate the greatest performance across a series of benchmarks and applications. The students have a unique opportunity to learn, experience and demonstrate how high-performance computing influences our world and day-to-day learning. Held in collaboration with the High Performance Computing Advisory Council and ISC, the Student Cluster Challenge is designed to introduce the next generation of students to the high performance computing world and community.
Nations conducted domestic competitions to select their teams and eight teams were entered into the final. The Centre for High Performance Computing was the organizer of South African competition. In Leipzig, the following countries were represented.

• USA: 2 teams
• China: 2 teams
• Germany: 1 team
• UK: 1 team
• Costa Rica: 1 team
• South Africa: 1 team

The experience will assist South Africa grow a generation of high performance expertise for national economic development and for large projects such as the Square Kilometre Array.
The much elated national team will arrive in South Africa on Saturday, 22 June 2013 at 09h40, on flight TK0040. To read further on the competition, please click here.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 June 2013 16:35

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CHPC in the News

CHPC SAGrid Cluster Available

Documentation for users:

Dirisa Storage Unit Available

Lengau Cluster Available

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