Fred Gent (left) and Dr. Sam James from Newcastle, UK, exploring the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki. Photo: Rachel Bradley.

HPC-Europa visits turned into long term close collaboration

Tommi Kutilainen

Frederick Gent participated in the HPC-Europa Transnational Access programme and visited Finland three times in 2010-2011. Later on he decided to move to Finland. Currently he works as a Post-doctoral research associate at Aalto University under the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence: Research on Solar Long-Term Variability and Effects.

– My then PhD supervisor in Newcastle University had a previous research relationship with my Finnish host working in the area of my thesis. My work required access to HPC resources and my host, Dr. Maarit Käpylä, had expertise in the software and the science application, as well as experience running the applications on CSC, so my supervisor recommended applying to HPCE2 to enable me to travel to Finland, Frederick Gent explains.

Frederick Gent had three visits spread over two years, each of three week duration, which covered travel, accommodation and daily living expenses.

– The duration of each visit was long enough to work closely with my host Maarit Käpylä to solve critical challenges with the development and implementation strategies of the code. Having the opportunity to repeat the visits allowed for further independent implementation, application and development of the models, and then intensive hands on collaboration in Finland to identify further solutions and priorities.

Supernova driven turbulence

Fred's research area is numerical modelling of supernova driven turbulence in the interstellar medium of galaxies. His interest is in the role of magnetism in the life cycle and structure of galaxies, star formation, galactic winds and fountains.

– To understand physically realistic magnetic fields we needed to numerically solve the equations of magnetohydrodynamics applied to a differentially rotating stratified region of a spiral galaxy, heated and stirred by multiple supernova explosions.

In their simulations, the required physical scales for the model are kiloparsecs in distance in 3D. The parsec is a unit of length used to measure large distances to astronomical objects outside the Solar System. The time scales are exceeding a giga year, ranges in density and temperature are huge and speeds are exceeding 1000 km/s. The resolution is a few parsecs in all directions and 1 to 100 years in time. Such large simulations used millions of CPU hours.

– The successful project produced the first physically realistic galactic dynamo simulation to include large and small scale magnetic generation employing parameters appropriate to the solar neighbourhood of the Milky Way, and to yield insights into the structure and behaviour of the thermally differentiated magnetic field.

A visualization that depicts the temperature of the interstellar medium. The supernova remnants appear as light flashes where the explosions heat he interstellar medium to in excess of 10 Million degrees Kelvin. Each face shows a 2D slice through the centre of the box. The midplane of the galaxy is in the centre and the domain extend 1 kiloparsec (kpc) either side of the mid plane.  (1 kpc = 30.86 thousand million million km). For more visualisations see 

Supportive science community

– Having never been to Finland, these HPC-Europa visits allowed me to be exposed to a different academic environment and attractive new cultural environment that in the end was critical to me being motivated and confident to actually move to Finland and further my career, subsequent to completing my thesis, Fred says.

– CSC was very supportive. An application for a Grand Challenge was approved and this enabled us to integrate the models over a sufficiently long duration to discover a galactic dynamo. Run times were typically a few months for a single simulation. The support regarding technical requirements and troubleshooting is also excellent as well as some assistance in 3D visualisation employing Paraview.

– Above all the access to such high quality computing resources and expertise were critical to the success of my thesis and its groundbreaking numerical realisation that would otherwise have been much less impressive and limited in scope. This sort of collaboration is superior to other visits, such as seminars, conferences or speaking invitations as a means of cementing long term and robust working relationships between hosts and visitors.

HPC Europa3

HPC-Europa3 is an EC programme funding 3-13 week research visits to eight European countries (DE, EL, ES, FI, IR, NL, UK, SE, see map for participating HPC centres) promoting the use of High Performance Computing (HPC) and international research collaboration in all fields of science. HPCE3 covers the travel and accommodation costs for the visitor and provides a small daily allowance and also gives access to the participating HPC center in the country of visit.

HPCE3 visitors can be affiliated to an academic or research institute or an SME in any EU or affiliated member state. Eligible hosts, which typically are research groups, can similarly be from from either academia or industry, as long as the research results can be published. If your group wants to receive visitors, you can sign up as a host in the on-line portal.

Applications are evaluated for suitability for HPCE3 (visit brings additional value wrt. using resources remotely, it aims at new or strengthening existing collaboration, research needs HPC or resources not available locally, code development, ...) and scientific excellence (by international panel). If you are uncertain if your research project fulfills the criteria,
contact us at hpc-europa(at) !

Apply for a research visit

The third HPCE3 Transnational Access Call for researchers is now OPEN with a closing date 28 February 2018 – apply soon, the administrational overhead is low and acceptance rate high.

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