[Press and Publications] £350,000 Computer Boost for New Science Centre [Mathematics; Engineering; Physics; Chemistry]

November 2000

No 199

A new £350,000 supercomputer is set to make number crunching as nice as pi for mathematicians at the University of Leicester.

The University has established a new Centre for Mathematical Modelling within the Faculty of Science and will link researchers in diverse disciplines such Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Engineering.

The 64-processor shared memory parallel computer will be acquired thanks to funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council special equipment initiative.

Dean of Science, Professor Will Light, said: “The computer will form the technical resource base for the newly founded Centre for Mathematical Modelling. When linked to a new PPARC facility in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Leicester will have a computational facility which is amongst the best in the world.”

Professor Light explained that multiscale modelling encompasses a broad set of research areas where the basic computational problems are similar - that of varying scales. Such problems are computationally very challenging, as the researcher tries to develop numerical methods (computer codes) which can follow parameters in a physical model, some of which may be varying over some quite large scale, while others are varying over a very small scale - perhaps even approaching atomic scales.

Simply running the simulation to be accurate at the smallest scale produces computer codes which would need millions of years to run, and so there is considerable challenge in developing approaches which are not destroyed by the need to cope with small scale phenomena.

“This challenge is somewhat akin to the difficulties a teacher might experience in trying to educate two children in the same room simultaneously, given that the children have widely different learning rates. One solution is to educate both at the same speed - that of the slowest child. This is similar to running the simulation geared to the smallest scale, but not many teachers would opt for such a course of action. A more efficient solution would be to allow the children to learn at different rates. However, if interaction is needed between the children, based on what they have learned, suitable strategies might be rather more complex.”

Professor Light added that the University had established the Centre to:

  • Foster joint research by staff with common research interests
  • Facilitate fairly large applications for computer kit and joint research grants
  • Raise the visibility of activities which are already taking place across a number of departments
  • “We have been able to identify considerable research activity in the Physical Sciences located in the broad area of Mathematical Modelling. In a nutshell, this phrase means that differential equations are being used to solve problems of physical importance. A very important second common thread is the employment of large scale parallel or multiprocessor machines to achieve numerical solutions to problems and simulations.

    “The Centre will raise visibility of a significant common area of research in Science. It is in the mainstream of modern scientific development - with the advent of relatively inexpensive large parallel computers, the nature of problems which can be tackled has changed radically, and there is now a major research thrust taking place across many areas of science in which large scale parallel computers play a fundamental role - weather forecasting is perhaps the best known, atmospheric pollutant distribution, shallow water wave modelling, computational chemistry and molecular dynamics, astrophsyical modelling are other examples.”


    Professor Will Light on 0116 252 3917.

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