Visit to St. FX and New Executive Director

We’re excited to meet our new ED (executive director) Ann MacKenzie next Thursday, at our next RD (research directorate) meeting!

Last week I had the pleasure to visit St. FX for a physics seminar. I had the opportunity to meet some bright students (and faculty!) and also to meet with local ACENET people. Apart from our ACENET Annual Meeting (AAM), most of our meetings are via videoconference — so meeting in the flesh is good when it is possible. I’d encourage you to look up your local RD member, or invite one over for a seminar. We can also make a special local meeting with ACENET people and local users, like an on-demand town-hall — just let me know.  This may be in the form of coffee or lunch for smaller groups, or something more extended for larger groups.

In any case, at St. FX I met with Peter Poole. In addition to being on the RD, he’s part of the Compute Canada (CC)  Resource Allocation Committee (RAC). If you need more than a couple of hundred core-years (where one core-year is one laptop working flat out for a year) then you put in a RAC request. It is treated like an old NSERC grant, where (if you had a reasonable proposal) you get some of your request. Many users at ACENET work with default applications, which amounts to about 10-20% of computer time at CC. Here you are limited only by the queue structure, which throttles use when you get towards the scale needed for RAC. If you get the RAC, you jump ahead of the default queues.  Peter manages to get up to about 1000 core-years from the default allocation, and so fills the unused gaps in the compute clusters managed by ACENET and CC.

I also met with Shah Razul (an ACENET Computational Research Consultant, or CRC). He’s excited about bringing Molecular Dynamics (MD) to the biological masses. As you may know, MD is used for structure-refinement in folded proteins, or for drug design or discovery. While code is easy enough to use, it isn’t always easy for new users to know what the important considerations (boundary conditions, equilibration, force fields, quality standards) are.

I also met with Greg Lukeman, our ACENET CTO (chief technology officer).  Greg has some exciting new ideas about outreach and training. As you may know, Greg supervises all of the ACENET CRC (who help users with code) and systems analysts (who run the hardware).

I hope to come back to Shah and Greg in future posts, but figure I shouldn’t be too long on any one.

Andrew Rutenberg (ACENET PI)