Monday, August 31, 2015

Google to award over USD$1M to Latin America researchers

Google is well known for supporting the development of sciences and technology around the globe. This time, the Internet giant is looking for world-class scientists in the Latin America region to support them and work with them in research topics of mutual interest. In particular, researchers in the domain of computational science are likely to have common interests with Google and their in-house research programs. These are the research areas that are of interest for Google (every proposal should be classified in one of these areas): 

  • Geo/maps
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Information retrieval, extraction and organization
  • Internet of things
  • Machine learning and data mining 
  • Mobile 
  • Natural language processing 
  • Physical interfaces and immersive experiences 
  • Privacy
  • Other topics related to web research  

Google has offered over one million dollars to support scientists in the region. This represents a significant cash injection into the Latin America research community. Each project should have one student, either PhD or Master and one faculty member. For the case of PhD students, the student will receive an allowance of USD$1200/month and the faculty USD$750/month for one year. For Master students, the student will receive USD$750/month and the faculty USD$675/month. 

Thousands of students and faculty member sent their applications last month. Precise guidelines on how to build a good application were given. Google senior researchers wrote a guide on how to write a strong proposal, which was a great place to start for applicants. The notifications would be sent directly to the fortunate winners in the coming weeks. We should keep an eye on those fortunate teams to see what great research results come out of this in the coming months. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

HPC Research in Applications

Roughly speaking, there are three big areas of research in HPC: hardware, software and applications. All well-versed HPC researcher and practitioner must know a fair amount in each one, but usually focus on a single one. I personally believe that Latin America HPC research should focus on applications, because this area has potential to impact the most people.

Two areas, in which I have been working in the recent years, are good examples of applications that are important and LA has already lots of knowhow: Weather/Climate and Natural Resources. In addition, those areas would improve in quality and scale with help of new methods and techniques from HPC.

In weather and climate modeling, usually the meteorologist simplify the physics of the processes involved so that they can run in a feasible amount of time their simulations. However, these simplifications result in loss of accuracy and precision. Human resources are needed to redesign the applications for large scale machines so that more realist models can run. Those models can be used to improve peoples lives, for example to plan for electricity production.

In natural resources, there is much research for example in oil and gas. In LA, there are many companies that perform large simulations to better extract oil and gas without damaging the environment. For example, in Bucaramanga - Colombia, Ecopetrol has a research center: . It has 20 labs with over 100 researcher. They improve safety by using simulations and, definitely would benefit from HPC to run larger and more realistic simulations.

Another possible application in natural resources is fracking. Simulating fractures is difficult and using realist models to preform those simulations is expensive. New methods to accelerate these techniques are important for the industry to allow safer operations. I particularly have been interested in XFEM method, since it does not require explicit representation of fractures, that would be difficult to maintain for complex geometries.

Finally, I believe that much can be done in basic software and hardware in LA, but applications should probably be central in HPC research here. Primarily, because it directly produces results used by society. Some sites in LA where software and data about Weather/Models can be obtained are: