Postgrads return from supercomputing conference
VLSCI recently selected seven PhD students from four Victorian universities to travel to Seattle, USA. The students were chosen to participate in the Early Adopters Ph.D. Workshop: Building the Next Generation of Application Scientists, held in conjunction with the international supercomputing conference, SC11, in November 2011.
The students, from Monash, La Trobe, RMIT and Melbourne Universities, came from diverse backgrounds including engineering, genetics, microbiology and computer science. But all of their PhD research in the life sciences required some level of high performance computing for their success. The students presented a poster of their research, and received feedback from an international panel of experts. Students new to high performance computing were immersed in a fascinating new world, with 11 458 attendees and some amazing trade displays.
“I was warned it would be like nothing else I’d experienced – and that was certainly true! The scale of it was awesome,” said Nano Nagle, from La Trobe University. Nano’s project, located in the Department of Genetics, will rely on her ability to master new skills associated with next generation sequencing.
Nano recently commenced research that aims to determine human migration routes through Island Southeast Asia. The people in this region represent more than 40 tribes and possess very high mitochondrial DNA diversity. Her research will inform this little-studied area by analyzing the mitochondrial DNA diversity among 6 tribes from Borneo.
While Nano’s first conference could have been an overwhelming experience, she was travelling with seasoned delegates who provided insights and advice. The chance to network with peers and role models also allowed exchange of valuable tips about coping with the demands of their PhDs: “It was really good to see researchers at the end of their PhD’s who were still so passionate about their research,” Nano said.
Nano’s travel partner, Subha Kalyaanamoorthy, was more experienced in the field of life sciences computation. Subha was nearing the end of her PhD research, screening large databases of potential anti-cancer drugs using molecular dynamics simulations on the VLSCI supercomputer.
Subha, who is based in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering at La Trobe University, was excited to attend SC11 and envisages every aspect of her future career will involve high performance computation. Subha’s supervisor, Professor Phoebe Chen, was pleased that “the VLSCI travel grants to attend the SC11 allows young researchers to share their research with leading experts of HPC”. Subha’s work attracted much interest at the workshop and since returning she has sent further details of her research to new contacts.
By removing the burden of travel and accommodations costs associated with attending the Supercomputing Conferences, VLSCI aims to support the development of future computational life science expertise. The call will go out around July 2012 for applications to attend the next Early Adopters PhD workshop.