Students Gain Professional Skills and Make Connections Through Blue Waters Internship Program

From left, Alaina Edwards, assistant professor Tulin Kaman, John McGarigal. Edwards and McGarigal interned at Blue Waters.
Courtesy of Tulin Kaman

From left, Alaina Edwards, assistant professor Tulin Kaman, John McGarigal. Edwards and McGarigal interned at Blue Waters.

Two undergraduate students greatly benefited from an internship position at Blue Waters, created by University of Arkansas assistant professor of mathematical sciences, Tulin Kaman.

Through this opportunity they could develop strong computational skills in high performance computing and reflect their perspective of how they can advance their knowledge and skills for their future career. The Blue Waters supercomputing system, housed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois.

Kaman connected her students with the Blue Waters Student Internship Program. The goal of the program is two-fold: to investigate the effect of the parallel programming models on time to solution for the numerical simulations of compressible turbulent mixing and to engage undergraduate students in petascale computing research in the area of computational fluid dynamics.

Kaman joined the U of A in 2017 and shortly thereafter established the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Student Chapter in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. She met a mathematical science major, Alaina Edwards, at one of the chapter's biweekly meetings. "Her enthusiasm, contribution, and working ethics with others caught my attention," Kaman said of Edwards.

In her course on differential equations, Kaman met mechanical engineering major, John McGarigal.

"He has impressed me with his ability to learn quickly and his strong problem-solving skills," Kaman said. "Out of 20 applications I chose them. In 2018-2019, they began training under my directions."

Their training included hands-on experience in the Arkansas High-Performance Computing Center at the University of Arkansas campus. Edwards and McGarigal also had the unique opportunity to participate in a two-week intensive Petascale Institute at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through this experience, they gained the skills required for petascale computing research in the area of computational fluid dynamics. Both had little or no experience in these areas prior to the project.

During their internship at Blue Waters, Edwards and McGarigal were selected to attend the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis as student volunteers. This conference provided the two with significant networking opportunities which potentially will propel them into their future career. Edwards and McGarigal presented their first poster at the American Physics Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics, held at the Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Academy of Science, held at Conway. Their poster at AAS received the first place undergraduate poster in computer science and was also selected to be presented at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications 2019 Blue Waters Symposium. 

Beyond their internship experience, Edwards and McGarigal continue to work on computational science research projects. Both will also pursue graduate studies in the area of computational science.

Edwards was one of the ten students accepted to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Pathways to Computing Internship Program to learn and develop the next-generation explicit methods for radiation transport in astrophysics and explore programming models for GPU supported on the fastest supercomputer in the world, Summit.

McGarigal started a new internship at Hewlett-Packard as part of the test automation team, working on designing the robot framework for computers.

Students interested in high-performance computing may visit AHPCC's website for training and skills-building opportunities. Students may also connect with Professor Kaman by joining the university's Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) student chapter.

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