Elisabeth Larsson, director, and Jerker Nyberg von Below, technical system administrator in the computer hall at UPPMAX. Photo: Lovisa Svensson.2023-05-15
20-year-old supercomputer centre popular for teaching purposes
The University’s supercomputer centre UPPMAX has been up and running for 20 years and today it is a valuable resource for researchers, teaching staff and students alike. “Students get captivated and gain a different perspective on their chemistry studies than what they are used to,” says lecturer and theoretical chemist Chao Zhang.
This year, UPPMAX is celebrating 20 years as a resource for high-performance computers, large-scale storage, and know-how in high-performance computing. The supercomputer centre assists researchers throughout Sweden, and since the turn of the year has been part of the National Academic Infrastructure for Supercomputing (NAISS), which is coordinated by Linköping University.
For the past two years, it has also been offering an additional service, UPPMAX for Education, for teaching staff and course participants at Uppsala University. This service enables all disciplinary domains to use the Centre’s compute clusters, data storage areas and cloud resources for processing big data. The service is a response to an increased need to process big data, such as in several new Master’s programmes,” says UPPMAX Director Elisabeth Larsson.
“For the students, it’s great to be able to run their data in a proper system. They also get help from our application experts whose work includes installing and updating software. So when you get a project with us and log in, the programs you need are often available.”
Assistance from system and application experts
The administrative staff also help with more specialised software licenses and user account management, something that Chao Zhang appreciates. He is a senior lecturer at the Department of Chemistry-Ångström, and for several years has been using UPPMAX in the course Chemical Bonding and Computational Chemistry.
“In the course we teach the theory, and in the UPPMAX lab sessions the students get to practice doing simulations with GROMACS, which is a software for molecular dynamics. Quite a lot of technical preparations are needed to do this. But thanks to the brilliant lab teachers Lisanne Knijff, Linnéa Andersson, and earlier Yunqi Shao and Harish Gudla, who also hold introductory courses, everything runs smoothly with the service and assistance to the students.”
Infrastructure for artificial intelligence
Sara Stymne shares Chao Zhang’s positive experiences with UPPMAX. She is a computational linguist at the Department of Linguistics and Philology and teaches in the area of automatic analysis of linguistic data. This field is changing at a tremendous pace, in particular due to the rise of controversial AI models such as ChatGPT. Her students have used the computer centre in courses as well as in group projects. One of these projects is to build machine translation systems based on big, multilingual models. Only supercomputer clusters like UPPMAX have that kind of capacity.
“In our teaching, it’s extremely important for us that UPPMAX or a similar resource continues to exist. We will probably also need it in more courses in the future, with more and ever bigger computations being used in our field,” says Sara Stymne.
Computational resource in life sciences
For more than 5 years, Ola Spjuth of the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences has been using UPPMAX in two of his courses, Pharmaceutical Bioinformatics with Sequence Analysis and Big Data in Life Sciences. According to him, the students appreciate getting to learn how to use really large-scale systems. They also understand that the knowledge they acquire is directly applicable to their forthcoming degree projects for example.
“Using UPPMAX in teaching is less complicated than you might think, and it can be used in different ways depending on the students’ backgrounds,” says Ola Spjuth.
In Chao Zhang’s course evaluations, students have identified the UPPMAX lab sessions as one of the highlights.
“Some write that these lab sessions should be longer. But the students can continue to do computations after the lab session, since all students in the course have access to the computers at UPPMAX from any laptop or home computer.”
UPPMAX for Education
UPPMAX (Uppsala Multidisciplinary Centre for Advanced Computational Science) is part of the Department of Information Technology and operates a number of large-scale high-performance computer systems. This IT environment is especially interesting for teaching in computing-intensive subject areas such as numerical analysis, computational physics, computational linguistics and bioinformatics, but can be used in all education subject areas where processing large amounts of data and data-intensive computing comprise part of the instruction. To book a course project at UPPMAX, contact the University’s IT Department (UIT).
- UPPMAX for Undergraduate Education, information in the Staff Portal
- New service provides access to supercomputer, news item 18 March 2021
- Uppmax and Akademiska Hus adapt electricity power demand, news item 25 March 2023
- UPPMAX Celebrates 20 Years of High-Performance Computing and Storage Services, information on the website for UPPMAX
NOTE! Drop in and celebrate 20 years of UPPMAX on 16 May at 13.00 on the ground floor, building 10, Ångström Laboratory – no need to register in advance!