NCSA Student Intern Showcase

By Noah Malmed, Computer Science '15

This is the next entry in our series about the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

The Blue Waters article that I posted earlier this week focused more on the hardware side of what NCSA has to offer. And, as I learned, a supercomputer can offer a ton of computational power.

But what good is all that power if there are no people to harness it?

Yesterday, I went to the Student Pushing Innovation (SPIN) intern showcase to find the answer.

SPIN is the student outreach branch of the NCSA. They offer paid internships to both undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Illinois.

From what I saw in the showcase, most of interns come from a wide variety of different academic disciplines. The one thing they all have in common is that they are harnessing supercomputers to do their work. 

There were interns working on scientific projects ranging from terrain analysis to molecular simulations. And there were also interns working improving the productivity of the supercomputers themselves.

Prabhat ReddyOne very interesting project was worked on and presented by Prabhat Reddy. Reddy (left; image courtesy of Prabhat Reddy) is a senior in Astronomy with an interest in cosmology and has been working with NCSA for three months.

Reddy believes that humans can identify visual patterns much better than patterns of data on a spreadsheet, so it’s best to represent data visually. 

“The app allows you to traverse the data as if it were a map, enabling you to pick out patterns with incredible ease,” Reddy says of his app.

Looking at the app, we can peer into the baffling view of space. But Reddy's betting on that even limitless space has a better chance of being more accessible to more people than stacks of Excel sheets.

Reddy's cosmological app. Image courtesy of Reddy's video about his app, available on YouTube

As you can see, the app is almost like google maps except you are looking around space instead of earth.

This project is just one of the many interesting showcases the NCSA interns had to present.

If you are interested in applying to SPIN internship program, go ahead and check out their application page.