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iSGTW Feature - Fermilab Postdoc Gets Word out About the Grid

Feature - Fermilab Postdoc Gets Word out About the Grid


Oliver Gutsche in his office at Fermilab.
Image courtesy of Christine Buckley, Fermilab

Oliver Gutsche, a postdoctoral researcher at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, U.S., and member of the Compact Muon Solenoid collaboration, participated in the Midwest Grid Workshop at the University of Illinois in Chicago, held March 24-25, where he taught students and scientists how to make the grid best work for them and their science.

No stranger to science communication, Gutsche has enjoyed talking about physics since he gave organized tours to neighbors and visitors at DESY, a center for physics research in Germany, during his graduate school days.

"In my opinion, the public usually thinks that we physicists just sit in our ivory towers," he says. "Informing the public helps in changing this."

At the workshop, Gutsche demonstrated the submission of several jobs to the grid; he calls his demo "Discovering the Higgs on OSG." The grid concept employs interconnected computer centers distributed around the world to allow researchers to access and analyze data from afar. Gutsche showed students how to use the Open Science Grid to analyze specific datasets by sending jobs to a remote computing center to perform the analysis. He used the interface program used by CMS, the CMS Resource Analysis Builder, to split up jobs and send them to available computing centers. CRAB then allows the researchers to monitor those jobs and read out the results. Within 20 minutes, Gutsche had "discovered" the Higgs boson in a set of simulated data.

In theory, the CRAB software is simple-to access the grid, virtually all a user should have to do is install the grid client software on his computer. "It works perfectly in the lab, in a controlled environment," said Gutsche. "But when your tool is used by people who are not experts on the software, you get all sorts of error messages. Then when you try to make it work in practice, it does crazy things. You can get some really weird error messages." Gutsche and his colleagues are hard at work trying to make the system, as he says, "bullet-proof."

To help users prepare for data analysis at CMS, he also developed and conducts a day-long seminar for new collaboration members every three months at Fermilab's LHC Physics Center. By 2008, the CMS grid system is expected to support 200,000 computing jobs from these users per day-four times as many as in 2006. "There's a lot of work going into reaching the scale we need. We push the system to a limit, then reach the limit, then exceed it and continuously improve the system and our tools."

To learn more visit the workshop Web site. This piece originally appeared in Fermilab Today.

-Christine Buckley, Fermilab

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