Feature - São Paulo State University celebrates one year of grid success
Brazil's São Paulo State University (UNESP) is continuing to take great grid-powered strides forward into a future where Brazilian scientists can play increasingly important roles in leading-edge experiments.
One year after scoring the equivalent of two million U.S. dollars in infrastructure funding, the university's new GridUNESP is seeing use for high energy physics, cancer research, genomics, engineering, fluid dynamics and much more, with a central cluster in the city of São Paulo and seven smaller clusters spread around the state.
The university's geographic distribution across 24 campuses was just one of the reasons that UNESP physics professor Sérgio Novaes first considered a grid.
"Our university did not have the scientific computing infrastructure necessary to conduct research in certain areas like lattice QCD, turbulence and molecular biology. This was a compelling reason, together with geographical extension, to implement a grid infrastructure in several different campuses of the university," he says.
"Before submitting the project proposal to funding agencies we conducted surveys throughout the university system, to thoroughly understand the processing and storage needs of all the interested groups."
This initial groundwork smoothed the way for a productive first year.
"We have established the hardware configuration for the entire cluster, and we are now taking the final steps to buy all the equipment. We were able to obtain some contracts from the university for system administrators, and we were allocated an area to establish the central data center," says Novaes.
User training is also a big focus: "To make GridUNESP a really useful facility for all research groups on the university, it is essential to implement a friendly interface and to provide the necessary training. We have been working on the development of a grid portal for GridUNESP, and we are preparing the syllabus for courses and tutorials for both technical staff and researchers."
To keep the training and education cutting edge, Novaes says support from international researchers and computer scientists is invaluable.
"We count on our foreign partners to support us and help organize courses and workshops, and to promote the exchange of experts and researchers," he said.
A partnership with Open Science Grid is already underway, with much support for GridUNESP provided by SPRACE, the São Paulo Regional Analysis Center, a well-established Open Science Grid node and a Tier-2 center for the Compact Muon Solenoid particle physics experiment. SPRACE had been processing data for Fermilab's DZero experiment since 2004 and had the computing expertise to organize the university's grid project.
The fruits of this collaboration are also realized by the wider community, says Novaes.
One example is an ambitious high energy physics outreach project, also under the SPRACE umbrella.
"We want to give students a sense that science is alive and well," says Novaes. "Science did not stop with the 19th century discoveries, as is presented by most middle and high school programs."
The project includes an online discussion forum for students and teachers, capturing some schools so isolated that their postal address reads simply: "the left bank of the Amazon river."
In addition, a highly popular Portuguese version of a poster depicting fundamental aspects of particle physics-originally from the Berkeley Particle Data Group-will be distributed to 25,000 middle schools.
In São Paulo, Brazil, physics and grid computing are most certainly alive and well.
- Jennifer Nahn, OSG