MIRA and marathons

(Originally published by Argonne National Laboratory)

June 19, 2015

Heitmann, Habib and Rangel
Katrin Heitmann, Salman Habib and Steve Rangel will be supporting HOPES and the Chicago Area Runners Association when they run The Chicago Marathon October 11.

For three Argonne employees it’s all about speed — both in and out of the lab.

Katrin Heitmann, a member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) and a joint staff member in the High Energy Physics and Math and Computer Sciences Divisions; Salman Habib, senior physicist at KICP and in the High Energy Physics and Math and Computer Sciences Divisions and Steve Rangel, lab appointee and Ph.D. student at Northwestern University have run the largest cosmological simulation on MIRA—one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

"Dealing with data is a big challenge in and of itself. What a large computer like MIRA enables is a lot of statistics," said Keitmann.

MIRA is capable of 10 quadrillion calculations per second. Located at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, it can do in one day what it would take the average personal computer 20 years to complete.

MIRA is also what brought Heitmann and Habib to Argonne from Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Rangel joined the team soon after their move to Argonne. He said he first became interested in data science and data analysis when he was pursuing his master’s degree. Later, his interest evolved into a passion for high performance computing.

"It was sort of a natural fit to come here and work with Salman and Katrin’s group," said Rangel.

The team has now begun to analyze the simulations, measuring galaxy distribution from a theory standpoint and comparing that data to observations of the universe.

Simulation of the Universe
The team worked together to transform data from the MIRA simulation into an image that closely resembles the actual universe. Argonne joint staff member Nan Li and University of Chicago Professor Mike Gladders constructed the final visualization.

But besides performing the world’s biggest simulation on MIRA, the team will put their own speed to the test later this year when they run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The team ran together for the first time in this year’s Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, held March 29 in downtown Chicago. Rangel then suggested they run a marathon.

“At first I said, ‘No way!’” Heitmann said. “Then, I got to thinking about it and thought it would be kind of cool if our group did it together. But I said we should at least do it for something more meaningful than just suffering for 26 miles.”

With that idea in mind, Heitmann said she searched for charities listed on the Chicago Marathon website for which people can run. There, she found Chicago HOPES for Kids.

HOPES began in 2006 as an initiative of the Chicago Public Schools Department of Education Support for Students in Temporary Living Situations, or STLS. The organization collaborates with schools and shelters to establish after-school tutoring programs and provides students with additional support outside the classroom despite the challenges of homelessness, according to their website.

Heitmann and Habib will be running the marathon as part of the organization’s team Hustle for Hopes. The money raised is used to purchase educational materials for the students.

“I like to support something local, that I can actually go see the students and meet with these people,” Heitmann said.

Rangel will be running with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Road Scholars — a mentorship-based running program for at-risk Chicago area high school students. Mentors train students to successfully complete a half-marathon. The program also uses running to teach at-risk youth lessons in commitment, dedication and discipline, according to the CARA website. Funds raised by the marathon participants will be used to provide teens in the program with running shoes, transportation to training sites and cover race entry fees.

“I was lucky enough to start running when I was a kid,” Rangel said. “For me, it really hits home.”

The 26.2-mile marathon is scheduled to be held October 11 in downtown Chicago.

More information on Katrin Heitmann, Salman Habib and Steve Rangel in the marathon.

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