Ph.D. graduate from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) Dr. Noha Al-Harthi and Ph.D. student Rabab Alomairy, have won the German Gauss Center for Supercomputing (GCS) Award for original research that best advances high-performance computing. This makes KAUST the first Middle Eastern institution to receive this prestigious award.
The winning team, which is part of the KAUST Extreme Computing Research Center (ECRC), focused on optimizing a class of solvers for data-sparse high-performance computing (HPC) applications. The team focused their optimization work on acoustic boundary integral equations, common in a variety of engineering and fluid dynamics applications.
The two Saudi scientists said the award would enable them to support their research, offering the chance for them to conduct experiments on the supercomputer “Isambard,” located in Bristol, UK, in addition to opening up a plethora of other opportunities for them in computing globally.
“I’m happy that KAUST could support the intellectual maturity of two ambitious women who entered our program with no experience or expectations about high performance computing, by building on undergraduate training from Effat University and King Abdul Aziz University,” said David Keyes, director of the ECRC and professor of applied mathematics and computational science.
For Al-Harthi and Al-Omairi, winning this award is a “tremendous honor and a prestigious recognition.”
The winning paper grew out of Al-Harthi’s dissertation on “Fast Solvers for Acoustic and Electromagnetic Scattering Problems.” “That is about developing an efficient and fast numerical method for analyzing and solving acoustic and electromagnetic wave-scatting problems from large 3D objects such as airplanes and submarines,” Al-Harthi, who is now a technology lead at NEOM, said.
Her research partner Alomairy works on accelerating the numerical algorithm using task-based programming models on the KAUST-based Shaheen II supercomputer, ranked the world’s 38th fastest supercomputer, and other systems abroad whose access has been opened to her, including the world’s No. 1 supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Lab in the US. While working on her PhD research, Alomairy was able to accommodate 2.5 million unknowns on 1,024 nodes of the Shaheen-II supercomputer.
“For me, as a PhD student, [the award] pushes me to work on more challenging problems, such as now simulating the transportation of coronavirus within a droplet and inside a conduit of the upper respiratory system by collaborating with MINES Paris Tech, PSL University in France,” Alomairy said.
Being in a male-dominant field, the fellow researchers hope to attract more women to the challenging field of HPC. “In HPC, more specifically in Saudi Arabia, the percentage of women compared to men is still very small. Many HPC centers, including the German-based ISC conference that awarded us this prize, host a special track for us called ‘Women in HPC.’ This award drives us to establish one here in Saudi Arabia to attract women interested in using HPCs to address major challenges,” Al-Harthi and Alomairy said in a statement.