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High-demand for supercomputing skills at ICHEC

The Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), has announced four new appointments as demand for high performance computing (HPC) services is being driven by research and business leaders.

With this latest series of new jobs, eight computational scientists have now joined ICHEC in 2020. ICHEC employs 42 staff, mostly highly skilled computational experts in Dublin and Galway. 

Commenting on the increased demand for complex computing support which ICHEC has seen in 2020. Professor Jean-Christophe Desplat director of ICHEC said: ‘Demand for HPC services is being driven by research and business leaders’ awareness of the need to upskill to prepare for coming technologies such as Quantum Computing as well as the opportunities in Europe for researchers to advance to using Exascale computing. The sophistication of modelling techniques is also increasing year-on-year requiring more code optimisation skills. Careful management of the national high-performance computer resource, ensuring appropriate code optimisation, is needed to meet this demand. During Covid-19 we have also seen strong growth in demand for training and education services, which we have continued to deliver online, as well as academic support for high-end computing. We will soon launch a dedicated programme of support and training for the SME sector in HPC through EuroCC.’

‘As the national provider of high-performance computing, we are best placed to respond to the challenges ahead and as the centre of excellence for European high-performance computing in Ireland we are at the cutting edge of research in Quantum Computing, AI and the disruptive technologies which we are all facing,’ Desplat, continued.

The new staff members, of which seven are funded through competitive research proposals in Ireland and Europe and only one directly by the State, include: Finnuala Solomon, who has joined the National HPC Service delivering third-level courses in Python and HPC; Dr Antonio Villapando and Dr James Nelson who have joined the Quantum Computing Activity and will be working with their ICHEC colleagues towards developing software and applications for quantum computing platforms; and Manuel Fernández who joined the Environmental Sciences Activity in October 2020, under the ESA funded project: AI-Ready Earth Observation Training Datasets (AIREO).

The most recent appointments follow a number of significant appointments earlier in 2020. Dr Enda O’Brien, a Senior Computational Scientist, rejoined his former colleagues in Environmental Sciences and brings his wealth of experience in meteorology and expertise in HPC and parallel programming to the team. Dr Elise Jennings, a Senior Computational Scientist is working on supporting Irish scientists and researchers as part of the European High-Performance Computing (EuroHPC) Competence Centre. Dr John Brennan joined the Centre in March, 2020 as a Computational Scientist. He is working on the PRACE project “QuantEx“ which develops scalable quantum circuit simulation tools for Exascale HPC platforms, and, finally, Dr Orna Fennelly who joined ICHEC in February and is working on a Health Research Board funded project examining the possibility of safe and controlled access, storage, sharing and synchronisation across health data-sets.

“Many of our new staff have joined during the pandemic and I would like to congratulate them on fulfilling their new roles in difficult circumstances without the usual office based collegial support. Disruption to national service has been minimal during the pandemic. Our performance continues to be described by users as “excellent” in terms of the speed and type of responses and also the general attitude of staff.  

The addition of these new staff will enable us to continue to support business and academics across the Irish landscape and exploit developing technologies for scientific breakthrough and operational advancement. We look forward to working together in an office environment again, hopefully in the not too distant future,” Prof, Desplat concluded.

ICHEC services include the application of HPC to big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), environmental sciences, earth observation and climate science, novel technologies (quantum and edge computing), training education and outreach.

ICHEC also recently launched the EuroHPC National Competence Centre (EuroCC) for Ireland part of a €1bn European flagship programme to advance a federated European supercomputing infrastructure and is currently supporting seven research projects as part of its Academic Flagship Programme.

The Irish Centre for High-End computing was established in NUI Galway in 2005 and operates across two locations, in Galway and Dublin.


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