Supercomputing Award Enables Fellow's Cosmic Simulation Research

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (DOE CSGF) recipient Sherwood Richers has received a Blue Waters Graduate Fellowship for the 2016-17 academic year.

Richers, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology, will receive a $38,000 stipend, a tuition allowance and, most importantly, 50,000 node hours on the Blue Waters high-performance computing system. Blue Waters, with a peak performance of 13 petaflops, or 13 quadrillion calculations per second, is based at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), an arm of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Richers, a fourth-year DOE CSGF recipient, focuses on improving simulations of core-collapse supernovae – exploding stars – and the collisions of neutron stars, the densely compressed remains left when massive stars collapse. Both are thought to be sources of gamma ray bursts, the most energetic phenomena in the universe.

Specifically, Richers develops methods to more precisely calculate neutrino transport, a key component of supernovae and neutron star mergers. Current supernova and neutron star merger simulations approximate neutrino transport, reducing their accuracy.

With his Blue Waters allocation, Richers will run neutrino transport simulations based on Monte Carlo methods, which randomly sample variables to efficiently model phenomena. The simulations are expected to be the most realistic to date and the first to have concrete error estimates, an NCSA release says.

Richers expects to graduate from Caltech in 2017. His graduate advisor is Christian Ott.