U-M, IBM Collaborate to Speed Up Pace of Scientific Discoveries


The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is working with IBM to develop a supercomputing system designed to increase the pace of scientific discovery in fields such as climate modeling, aircraft and rocket design, and cardiovascular disease treatment.

“There is a pressing need for data-driven predictive modeling to help re-envision traditional computing models in our pursuit to bring forth groundbreaking research,” says Karthik Duraisamy, assistant professor in the U-M Department of Aerospace Engineering and director of U-M Center for Data-driven Computational Physics. “The recent acceleration in computational power and measurement resolution has made possible the availability of extreme scale simulations and data sets.”

Duraisamy says the system, called ConFlux, is designed to enable high performance computing applications for physics to interact, in real time, with big data in order to improve scientists’ ability to make quantitative predictions. He says the system integrates massive datasets with high performance computing power, resulting in new predictive simulation techniques.

ConFlux establishes a hardware and software ecosystem to enable large-scale data-driven modeling of complex physical problems. IBM is providing servers and software solutions.

“Scientific research is now at the crossroads of big data and high performance computing,” says Sumit Gupta, vice president of high performance computing and data analytics at IBM. “The explosion of data requires systems and infrastructures … that can both stream and manage the data and quickly synthesize and make sense of data to enable faster insights.”

Duraisamy says as one of the first projects U-M will undertake with its advanced supercomputing system, researchers are working with NASA to use cognitive techniques to simulate turbulence around aircraft and rocket engines. U-M is also studying cardiovascular disease for the National Institutes of Health, by combining noninvasive imaging such as results from MRI and CT scans with a physical model of blood flow to help doctors estimate artery stiffness within an hour of a scan — an early predictor of diseases such as hypertension.

Earlier this year, U-M collaborated with IBM to develop a computer system that acts as an academic adviser, answering questions and interacting with students.