Marquette receives National Science Foundation grant for new supercomputer system

The Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University.
The Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University.

Marquette University has received a $681,425 grant from the National Science Foundation to help fund a new supercomputer cluster on campus that will increase the university’s computational capacity for research.

The Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University.
The Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University.

The supercomputer cluster, a set of connected computers that work together effectively as a single system, will be about 60 times faster than the university’s current system, according to Dr. Qadir Timerghazin, associate professor of chemistry and principal investigator on the grant.

The system is expected to be installed in early 2019. University officials did not disclose the total cost of the new cluster.

The effort to secure the NSF grant was led by the late Dr. Rajendra Rathore, former Pfletschinger-Habermann Professor of Chemistry at Marquette.

Rathore was hospitalized in January, a few days before the grant application he had nearly completed was due. From his hospital bed, Rathore enlisted Timerghazin and chemistry professor Dr. Scott Reid to complete the application. Rathore died in February, a week after it was submitted.

“It was his last major contribution to Marquette,” Timerghazin said. “It’s his legacy … For me, it isn’t just a computer. It’s the legacy of my friend.”

The supercomputer cluster will be available to all Marquette researchers, along with researchers from outside the university. Marquette President Michael Lovell has set a goal for the university to double its research from 2015 to 2020.

“It will definitely bring our research to a new level,” Timerghazin said. “With the current system, there are just many research problems that we don’t have the computational horsepower to tackle.”

The current system has contributed to about 200 research papers published by Marquette researchers, but technology has evolved significantly since it was installed about a decade ago.

“Ten years is like an eternity in computers,” Timerghazin said.

Marquette University is one of several Milwaukee institutions to invest in high-performance computing infrastructure.

The Milwaukee School of Engineering plans to install a graphics processing unit-accelerated supercomputer in the new Dwight and Dian Diercks Computational Science Hall, which is currently under construction in the center of campus. MSOE officials have said the system will be used by students, faculty members and those in the industry for data analytics.

In 2013, the Milwaukee Institute upgraded its high-performing computer cluster, making it the largest publicly accessible supercomputing resource of its kind in the state. The Milwaukee Institute system is made available to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Innovation Campus, along with several other local companies.

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