Computer Cluster for Computational Physics Laboratory
Submitted by: Alan Denton, Computer Science
Date: October 13, 2006
Award number: 0514
Account number: 18600
Central to our initiative of building a Center of Excellence in Computational Physics, the Department of Physics has remodeled in South Engineering -- with major support from the College of Science and Mathematics and ND EPSCoR -- to create space for a modern Computational Physics Laboratory (SE 221). This multi-purpose facility services all Physics courses with computational components, including a new core course, Introduction to Computational Physics, while providing modern computational resources for undergraduate and graduate student research projects.
To help the Computational Physics Laboratory reach its full potential, the project integrates two complementary components:
(1) Expanding the computational facilities of the Laboratory.
(2) Installing computational software for instruction and research.
Purchased and installed fifteen (15) new Apple Mac mini computers and peripherals (monitors, keyboards, mice). Cost: $11,788.50
Installed Xgrid software for parallel processing.
Lab hosts spring semester courses -- Phys 485 Quantum Mechanics, Phys 299 University Physics I Recitation
Installed six (6) Mathematica 5.2 software licences (cost: $450)
Installed and implemented Open-Source Physics software for Phys 485 Quantum Mechanics (http://www.opensourcephysics.org)
Lab hosts fall semester courses -- Phys 370 Introduction to Computational Physics, Phys 361 Electromagnetic Theory, Phys 462 Thermodynamics
Installed Mathematica 5.2 license manager and six (6) licences (cost: $450)
Reinstalled Xgrid software
Comments: Complete with new computational resources, the Computational Physics Laboratory is now extensively used for a variety of Physics courses. The purchase and installation of new hardware and software has enabled the Lab to accomodate its designed capacity of students. In recent months, two unanticipated challenges have arisen. In May, our laboratory technician and system administrator resigned. In July, a power surge, caused by campus construction, damaged the IMac controller node of the Xgrid cluster (since replaced). Despite these temporary setbacks, the project is proceeding as planned and having measurable impacts: facilitating the integration of modern computational methods into the undergraduate physics curriculum; supporting recruitment and retention of Physics majors; strengthening students' computational skills; and enhancing the reputation of NDSU as a leader in computational science instruction.