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Research from Participants in CRPC Summer Research Experience Programs for Undergraduate Students

The continued success of high-performance computing will be largely in the hands of a new generation of scientists and engineers capable of using this resource. That is why the CRPC and organizations like it are actively involved in education. The CRPC, for instance, has helped to support and/or establish several programs at various sites that give students the opportunity to work directly on computationally oriented research during the summer. The work exposes them to a professional research environment and gives them valuable experience that is beneficial in advancing their careers. The CRPC assists by providing the funding, people, and/or resources needed to ensure the success of these programs.

For five years, the "Spend a Summer with a Scientist" (SaS) program at Rice University has provided a supportive environment for research experience to talented undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented minority backgrounds. Participants work on research projects with researchers from the CRPC, Rice, and the Keck Center for Computational Biology and meet weekly to discuss minority issues. The students in this year's SaS program were particularly involved in minority issues, acting as mentors to students in the South Texas Science Academy Intern Program, going to Austin, TX with SaS organizer Richard Tapia to talk about the program with Texas legislators, and giving in-depth interviews with reporters from Blackside Incorporated for a PBS documentary on minority affairs in science.

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program at Syracuse University gives promising students formative research experience similar to graduate study. Students this summer worked closely with staff researchers and faculty at the CRPC and Syracuse University on a wide range of research areas. Students used several CRPC parallel machines and learned computer programming, numerical and computational techniques, and preparation of talks and papers. Lecturers and speakers in the program included representatives from Thinking Machines, Maspar, nCube, and the mechanical engineering and computer science departments at Syracuse. This year's program was one of the most successful in soliciting applications-a record 91 applicants sought positions.

At summer programs in parallel computing at Caltech, minority and female undergraduates in computer science and mathematics spent two months during the summer working with Caltech scientists, using high-performance parallel computers and working in areas such as parallel programming methods, algorithms, and scientific computing. Like the programs above, this stimulating research environment motivates participants to continue their education through graduate school. This year's program was particularly unique in that all of the participants were female.

The Summer Research Participation Program (SRP) at Argonne is an eleven- week educational experience giving participants the opportunity to study and carry out research at the frontiers of their fields of interest. The program is administered by Argonne's Division of Educational Programs (DEP). Participants collaborate with an Argonne staff member in some part of an ongoing project of interest to the student. The students also attend a series of seminars and tours dealing with current topics in science and engineering.

Student Research Projects

The following section gives a small sampling of research accomplishments of students from the programs mentioned above. Up until now, the "Research Focus" articles that are regularly run in this newsletter have displayed the accomplishments of various staff and faculty researchers involved in CRPC work. This article would like to highlight the fact that students play a significant role, beside professional staff, in CRPC research. Their participation is a benefit to both themselves and the center.

BURN: A Simulation of Forest Fire Propagation
Marshall S. Veach, Texas A&M University, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, Syracuse University Advisors: Paul Coddington & Geoffrey Fox, Syracuse University

The primary goal of this project was to design and implement a simulation of forest fire propagation using the principles of artificial life. The project involved design, implementation, and evaluation of a simulation of forest fire propagation as a cellular automaton in a parallel environment. The simulation was developed for a variety of applications including fire propagation prediction and the evaluation of fire fighting effectiveness.

The result of this work was a Fortran 90 program called BURN. Currently, BURN supports thirty-three distinct fuel types as well as cell-specific wind, elevation, and moisture data at a resolution 400 square feet. The total burn space consists of a 100x100 matrix, making the entire area simulated 40,000 square feet.

BURN's fire spread model is based on a set of equations developed by Richard Rothermel. Unfortunately, these equations provide no way of modeling the transition of fire between adjacent cells of distinct fuel type. In order to model fire spread in a heterogeneous environment, BURN employs a unique method of fire transferal. Rather than model the fire spread continuously, BURN assumes a fire "jumps" from one discrete cell to another. More specifically, BURN assumes all fire that ignites in a particular cell does so in the exact center of that cell. Therefore, according to BURN, when a fire from one cell ignites in an adjacent cell, it "jumps" from the edge of the igniting cell into the center of the ignited cell. While this method has no parallel in actual fires, it provides a simple and effective procedure for modeling heterogeneous fuel beds without loss of accuracy.

Commenting on the REU program, Veech said it "was, without a doubt, one of the most influential experiences of my academic career. It has gave me a chance to study a topic of interest in detail, a chance to perform legitimate research for the first time, and a chance to experience a good approximation of a graduate school environment. Being able to delve deeply into a topic provided a unique alternative to the breadth of undergraduate studies."

A full-description of this and other REU projects is available through the World Wide Web by contacting http://old-npac.ucs.indiana.edu/REU/reu94/reuhomepage.html.

Institutional Influence on Governing Coalitions and Policy Adoption
Patricia Garcia, Rice University, Spend a Summer with a Scientist (SaS) (note: this program involves graduate as well as undergraduate students) Advisor: Robert M. Stein, Rice University

Patricia Garcia's project focused on the specific question, "Under what conditions will minority city council members be successful in passing resolutions?" Originally she had planned to continue previous research on the influence of social context on voter registration, but exposure to the literature in the urban field this spring led her to proposing this project.

The research is based on political history related to the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act, during which time scholars and activists pushed for single-member districts at the local level. The assumption was that more single-member districts would increase minority representation on local councils, leading to significant policy changes. Although minority representation increased with the implementation of single- member districts, consequent policy changes were not significant. The research is of particular interest to individuals and groups concerned with representation, political leaders working on strategies for winning coalitions, and scholars focusing on urban policy issues.

Given the literature on both coalitions and institutional influence, the theory Garcia presented in the research design contends that whereas single member districts may quantitatively increase minority representation, mixed electoral systems on a local level will lead to a greater proportion of minority-introduced resolutions being passed. In using this research as a base for an expanded project, she will link the institutional and context literature with the goal of increased explanation of urban coalition formation and policy passage.

Garcia benefited from the SaS program through the new analytic tools she has learned to use and the extensive discussions she has had with her fellow SaS students.

Intuitive Stencils for Iterative Methods
Tzu-Yi Chen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CRPC Summer Program for Undergraduate Women and Minorities at Caltech Advisor: Mani Chandy, Caltech

The discretization of partial differential equations through finite differential analyses leads to large systems of linear equations, often written in the form Ax = b, where x and b are vectors and A is a square matrix. Solving these systems through direct methods (e.g., Gaussian elimination with back substitution) is impractical due to time and space requirements.

However, the large systems of equations derived through finite differential analyses are often solved numerically using iterative methods. Iterative methods are useful in this context because they use less storage than direct methods and often converge to the solution for x rapidly (depending on the structure and contents of A). In the case of matrices generated through finite difference analysis, the matrices are usually diagonally sparse, lending themselves to storing only a small portion of A in the form of stencils associated with each point in the problem domain.

Methods used in making these stencils space efficient typically obscure the connections between the physical meaning of the partial differential equation, the system of equations derived through a finite difference analysis, and the coded commands. To remedy this problem, Chen implemented iterative methods using an idea called intuitive stencils, which attempts to clarify the connections between the original equation, the matrix, and the functioning of the iterative solver used. This is particularly useful for stationary methods such as Jacobi and Gauss- Seidel as well as for non-stationary methods.

Although not suitable for use in research, intuitive stencils can be used as educational tools for introducing students to iterative methods as solvers of partial differential equations. Students will be able to understand the code implementing an iterative solver on a level closer to their understanding of how that iterative solver finds the solution to the physical system described by the equation.

Online Version of Designing and Building Parallel Programs
Cris Perez, Summer Research Participation Program, Argonne National Laboratory Advisor: Ian Foster, Argonne National Laboratory

Cris Perez spent the spring and summer of 1994 working at Argonne under the guidance of Ian Foster. Initially, he had worked on system software projects like Nexus and Fortran M, but quickly found more of an interest in technical writing. (Perez will be pursuing a Master's degree in technical communication and a Ph.D. in computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.) As a result, he worked with Foster on an online version of Foster's book Designing and Building Parallel Programs .

The book, which has been recently released by Addison-Wesley, is one of the first of its kind to be offered freely through the World Wide Web (WWW). It offers students and professionals a comprehensive introduction to learning parallel programming for science and engineering applications. The book covers program design, analysis, tools, and resources and offers numerous examples through CRPC- related parallel languages such as CC++, Fortran M, HPF, and MPI.

The online version contains the full text of the hardcopy book as well as a collection of public domain parallel software tools, various educational resources, and links to other WWW sites in parallel computing. Perez played a big part in bringing the book online by creating a database of related computer science material (known as "Web Tours") that included hyperlinks to other WWW sites, adding search capabilities to the book text with the help of Paul Klark at the University of Arizona, finding navigational icons that would help create an interesting visual presentation of the electronic book, and handling the conversion of materials into an HTML (hypertext markup language) format.

Perez noted that he found it interesting to work on the groundbreaking project. "I really got a sense of how technical communications and computer science could be combined," he said. "The project gave me a greater vision of my career options."

The online version of this book is available through the World Wide Web by accessing the URL "http://www-unix.mcs.anl.gov/dbpp/".

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