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Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

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IGB Faculty Members Granted Access to Top Supercomputer

Four researchers at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) have been granted access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, capable of sustained performance at 1 petaflop, the measure of computer processing speed that is equal to a thousand trillion floating-point operations per second.

Blue Waters is considered one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. It provides more computational power for scientific computing at the University of Illinois than most universities have available for their general use.

With the help of Blue Waters, IGB researchers will be able to perform quadrillions of calculations every second that are critical to producing improved biofuels, understanding protein disorders, and more.

IGB’s Isaac Cann, Professor of Microbiology and Animal Sciences and Deputy Director of the Energy Biosciences Institute, is one of eight investigators who will be able to spend significant amounts of time progressing his research with the aid of Blue Waters.

“Our limited understanding of how cellulose is depolymerized by key enzyme systems utilized in today's biofuel generation process has slowed down efficient conversion of biomass to biofuels,” Cann said. “The great computational power of Blue Waters will allow us, working with Swanlund Professor of Physics Klaus Schulten's group at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, to examine in greater detail than before one of the bottlenecks that has prevented biofuel generation from becoming an economically feasible technology.”

In addition, IGB faculty member and Professor of Bioinformatics Gustavo Caetano-Anolles, technical lead in genome informatics Christopher Fields, and Victor Jongeneel, the director of HPCBio (High-Performance Biological Computing) and IGB’s Director of Bioinformatics, received exploratory awards that will allow them to explore how Blue Waters can assist them with their research.

Blue Waters is operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). The National Science Foundation and the University of Illinois support Blue Waters.

For more information, visit the NCSA website or contact Trish Barker, NCSA Public Affairs Coordinator.

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