Cables plugged into computers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at the Advanced Photon Source.

Research Computing Support staff member facilitates high performance computing for university’s faculty and students

Jens Mueller and a student look at data on a computer screen.
Jens Mueller (left) is the director of high performance computing services at Miami University and a Campus Champion for the Ohio Supercomputer Center, supporting faculty and students in all stages of their HPC needs.

We’re pleased to run this item, which originally appeared in the Ohio Supercomputer Center’s  2017-2018 Research Report, with the permission of  the Ohio Technology Consortium, a division of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

The demand for high performance computing at Ohio’s universities has significantly grown and diversified. Jens Mueller, Ph.D., has witnessed that first hand at Miami University.

Mueller is the director of high performance computing services at Miami University and a Campus Champion for the Ohio Supercomputer Center, supporting faculty and students in all stages of their HPC needs.

“In some way, I’m the person for everything,” said Mueller, who has worked with OSC for more than 10 years. “The highlight at Miami is the broad spectrum of fields using computational research. I’ve only gotten busier because everything is more data driven, increasing demands.”

Traditional HPC users at Miami and many Ohio campuses include the engineering departments, computer science, math, physics, chemistry, geography and geology. However, Mueller has witnessed a growing demand from the business school, economics, finance, humanities, political sciences and even the English department.

And the broad spectrum of disciplines also means a broad spectrum of computational skill sets.

“One of the challenges in my role is to identify the proper computational resources based on experience and expressed needs,” Mueller said. “This includes software tools and specific hardware resources.”

Mueller and his team follow a tiered approach to helping researchers meet HPC needs. They start with Miami’s local clusters and, once they are exhausted, Mueller facilitates the transition to OSC.

Mueller also helps facilitate a class partially taught on OSC machines to assist people through the process of using HPC resources, everything from applying for an account to reserving compute nodes to gaining software licenses and even using OSC OnDemand.

“I look at what challenges they’ll face and how they can be eliminated,” he said. “I just want to make sure the transition is smooth.”

Mueller also works one-on-one with research groups and faculty labs. And while he helps Miami’s researchers a great deal, he also helps OSC. He was part of the OnDemand committee to give feedback on its usability and regularly communicates to OSC what is working well and what isn’t.

“We contribute to OSC and that’s beneficial to them, of course the benefit to us is great as well,” he said. “Researchers can get amazing things accomplished using OSC.”

Mueller highlighted a few recent Miami projects in which he helped researchers make the most of OSC’s resources:

  • Graduate student Melvin Ikwubuo, with David Munday, Ph.D., associate professor in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, is studying the effect of geometric features on film cooling efficiency. The project was featured in a poster presentation during the OSC Statewide Users Group in April.
  • Amelie Davis, assistant professor of geography, is in a research collaboration on computational analysis of satellite imagery, using the tool R at OSC to predict forage suitability for honey bees and other pollinators.
  • Graduate student Erik Brodin, with Jessica Sparks, Ph.D., in chemical, paper and biomedical engineering is in a research collaboration on 3D printer syringe modeling.
  • Amy Yousefi, Ph.D., a professor in chemical, paper and biomedical engineering, has a senior design student project attempting to model flow of cell culture fluid in bioreactors with the goal to improve bone growth in artificial scaffolds.
  • Rachel Blum, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, used automated content analysis to study the dynamics of political parties via a topic model. The sources were a vast collection of blog posts and interview data.
  • Andor Kiss, Ph.D., director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics, had a project studying the genome of the wood frog, a species that freezes in the winter and comes back to life in spring when it thaws.

Photo of high performance computer by Argonne National Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons license. Photo of Jens Mueller by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.

Detail of wiring in the high performance computing (HPC) data center at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility.

Redhawk3, new high performance computing cluster, now live

DJ Rao stands in front of a screen displaying computer-generated models of Zika virus epidemiology.
Miami faculty, including Dhananjai “DJ” Rao, of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, use the HPC for computer modeling and other research.

Miami University IT Services and Research Computing Support have been implementing a significant portion of the new high performance computing (HPC) cluster, named Redhawk3, over the last few months. The result: Redhawk3 went live for the Miami research community on October 11, at noon. While not at its full capacity yet, Redhawk3 already exceeds the compute power of the old system by far, in terms of available memory and compute speed.

The new machines have state-of-the art Intel processors that work at a clock speed of 2.6GHz, and each has 24 compute cores and about 100GB of shared memory. One large memory node has 1.5 TB of RAM. Now that the new system is being implemented, the old system will be decommissioned.

When users access the new cluster, they will find their home space and files from the old system transferred and readily available to them.

A new security feature will require users to authenticate with two-factor authorization, in line with the new Miami security policy. Current users of the HPC cluster can request detailed instructions on how to access the new cluster by emailing Research Computing Support.

By Jens Mueller, Senior Research Computing Specialist, Research Computing Support, Miami University.

HPC detail wiring photo by U.S. Department of Energy via Flickr, public domain. Photo of DJ Rao by Jeff Sabo, Miami University Photo Services.