Nature is an analog computer with a bahzillion parts (bahzillion = much more than a zillion), so there are tremendous intellectual challenges in getting even the most powerful digital computers to emulate the processes that particle physicists are interested in. These challenges include making sense of the data from experiments, predicting what experiments should see, and simulating new accelerator and detector systems that will enable the experiments of the future.
Our Scientific Computing Division at Fermilab comprises almost 150 people with a unique and important cross section of skills, including scientists, engineers, software designers and software developers, as well as experts in using and operating high-performance and high-throughput computing hardware. Scientific Computing has always been a core strength of the laboratory, and SCD scientists are involved in all of the scientific endeavors at the lab. They have already played essential roles in major discoveries, including that of the Higgs boson.
Effective last week, Panagiotis Spentzouris took over as head of the Scientific Computing Division, relieving Rob Roser, who had been acting head even after assuming the role of Chief Information Officer for the laboratory. Panagiotis is a familiar face at the lab, having worked on four different experiments since arriving here in 1989. He has worn many hats for computing as well, and for the past 10 years has led a national collaboration called ComPASS (Community Project for Accelerator Science and Simulation). The vision of ComPASS, developing a common set of accelerator modeling tools that will enable large-scale virtual prototyping of accelerator components, was highlighted in the recent P5 report.
As U.S. particle physics moves forward on the P5 plan, Panagiotis will be charged with taking scientific computing to the next level. New paradigms in both computational and data-intensive computing are just around the corner, and how we bring these technologies together and take full advantage of them will require the kind of vision and energy that Panagiotis can provide.
As we congratulate Panagiotis on his new position of leadership, it’s also a good time for those of us who have been calling him “Spentz” to improve our pronunciation skills in the mother tongue of Western civilization. Here is a link to help.