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Issues and Solutions in Teaching Researchers The Value and Use of High Performance Computing

Presentation to the 2nd New Zealand eResearch Symposium, University of Otago, Dunedin, Thursday 30 June and Friday 1 July, 2011.

Whether for molecular modelling in the life sciences, fluid dynamics for engines, dynamic engineering, weather forecasting, or natural resource exploration, the contemporary supercomputer has contributed a vast theoretical understanding and practical application through a unity of accurate simulation and empirical confirmation. Despite this multidisciplinary range the computational and research resources of high performance clusters and parallel applications is less than optimal from the very research community who would benefit from it. This is primarily due to a lack of familiarity on the requisite tools primarily due to changes in tacit knowledge in computer system operation over the past twenty years, to the point where users are unaware on a conceptual and practical level of the core command-line utilities.

In the past two years the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing have overhauled a basic tutorial programme aimed at introducing researchers to core operating system commands and job submission tools for high performance computing with a smoother pathways to specific applications and eventually to an introduction in MPI programming for advanced users. This programme structure, combined with the use of multiple learning styles, a high trainer-student ratio, and constant feedback and course revision has resulted in excellent feedback, higher usage statistics, incorporation of course material into University postgraduate programmes and research publications. Replication in similar circumstances should generate similar metrics.

Slides of the presentation (PDF) are available.