by Roy Kim

Two weeks ago, we posed an open-ended question to the research community: What scientific problems would you tackle with a petaflop supercomputer? Today, we reveal the three proposals selected to win exclusive early access to an NVIDIA Tesla K20 GPU.

Contest entries came in from hundreds of researchers around the world. Their proposals ranged from societal challenges to advancing biofuels, from easing greenhouse gas emissions to preventing the next financial meltdown – all with a common aspiration to change the world.

The NVIDIA Tesla K20

The buzz around this contest reminds us that the pace of innovation is limited not by human imagination, but by computing resources. Oak Ridge National Lab recently told us that computing access on the upcoming TITAN supercomputer, powered by Tesla GPUs, is heavily oversubscribed – and the system isn’t even online yet.

This is where the Tesla K20 GPU can transform research. Using this GPU, based on our next-generation Kepler architecture, every research university could have access to petascale supercomputers, and speed up the pace of scientific discoveries.

After reviewing the flood of compelling proposals, our panel of academics handpicked three winning entries:

“Antiretroviral Therapies Against HIV-1”
Juan R. Perilla Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group

Summary: HIV-1 is increasingly acquiring new resistance to antiretroviral treatments. A petaflop supercomputer would help us see the complex dynamics that govern the space phase of the conical HIV capsid. The capsid protein plays critical roles in both late and early stages of the infection process and is widely viewed as an important unexploited therapeutic target that could offer the best hope of generating drugs that are active against all HIV-1 variants.

“Finding Biomarkers for Major Mental Disorders”
Stephen J. Glatt, Ph.D., SUNY Upstate Medical University
Director of Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology & Neurobiology Laboratory (PsychGENe Lab)

Summary: PsychGENe Lab is working to find better ways to diagnose and prevent major mental disorders like autism, schizophrenia and many others. Discovery of additional risk genes and biomarkers for major mental disorders will, in turn, allow the development of personalized and more efficient treatments as well as earlier identification and prevention. A petaflop supercomputer would continually model existing and emerging datasets with more complex models that more likely resemble the true biological complexity underlying these insidious disorders.

“Tracking Oil Spills at Real Time for Immediate Cleanup Efforts”
Brandon Snow Richardson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Stanford University

Summary: During an average flight to track progress of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, AVIRIS, an in-flight NASA instrument, would generate more than 135 GB of data, which would take a week to process and create abundance maps in a CPU cluster. My research has shown that GPUs significantly accelerate spectral decomposition, and a petascale computer with GPUs will instantaneously produce abundance maps to help cleanup crews immediately respond.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all who participated in the contest!