Supercomputer credited with attracting talent and money to Aberdeen University

A supercomputer called Maxwell is underpinning cutting-edge research at the university’s Centre for Genome-Enabled Biology and Medicine

Students, researchers, and funds have all been attracted to the University of Aberdeen by its investment in a new supercomputer, claims the institution.

The new high performance computing (HPC) cluster, Maxwell, is underpinning cutting-edge research at the university’s Centre for Genome-Enabled Biology and Medicine (CGEBM), offering a centralised supercomputer for the whole university with applications in medicine, biological sciences, engineering, chemistry, maths and computing science.

“Aberdeen is a research-intensive university and we’ve already seen an increase of 50% in registered users of our Maxwell HPC cluster,” said Dean Phillips, assistant director of the institution’s digital and information services.

“Having our own HPC system helps the university to attract new researchers, research funding and expand on existing programmes of research and teaching. It is highly beneficial for our researchers to have on-site access to HPC infrastructure, particularly when securing start-up funds.”

Thanks to the new supercomputer, and its boasting of 20 times more storage than the university’s previous HPC system, scientists can undertake “revolutionary” study of the planet’s biodiversity and complex ecosystems.

“Aberdeen’s investment is a credit to its foresight in the importance of HPC in research that impacts people and everyday live” Russell Slack, OCF

Analysis of microbiomes from ecosystems as diverse as glaciers, deep-sea sediments and the human gut, is leading to greatly increased comprehension of the biological processes inherent in areas including the degradation of hydrocarbons, mechanisms of drug efficacy and toxicity, pathogen detection, and antimicrobial drug resistance.

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Genomics is a dynamic discipline that rapidly evolves into new applications and approaches to interrogate complex systems,” said CGEBM manager, Dr Elaina Collie-Duguid.

“The new HPC cluster, with its expanded capacity and advanced GPU capabilities, enables us to use new analysis methods and work at a much quicker rate than before. It really is an exciting time for genomics, which is revolutionising the study of organisms and complex ecosystems to address issues of global importance, and HPC is a critical tool for analysis of this data.”

The supercomputer helps around 300 users, including graduate and postgraduate students in such specialised fields as AI and bioinformatics.

Maxwell’s capacity is also being utilised by SME research company, Scotia Biologics.


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“As part of our drive to introduce new services to offer to the life sciences sector, Scotia is developing phage display library capabilities based around a growing number of animal species,” said the company’s CEO, Keith Charlton.

“With access to Maxwell, we’ve been able to quickly generate a large volume of data relatively inexpensively whilst significantly advancing our R&D programme.”

Remote admin service for the supercomputer is being provided by OCF.

Maxwell, said OCF MD, Russell Slack, “attracts researchers, students and grants to [the university’s] facility. Aberdeen’s investment in its HPC is a credit to its foresight in the importance of HPC in research that impacts people and everyday lives.”

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