Scientists from Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg receive European prize for computer science teaching initiative

Georg Hager, Gerhard Wellein, and Jan Treibig from Erlangen Regional Computing Center (RRZE) and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg have been honored with the “Informatics Europe Curriculum Best Practices Award: Parallelism and Concurrency” during a ceremony at the “7th European Computer Science Summit 2011” [1] in Milan, Italy. The group shares the €30,000 prize, which has been awarded for the first time this year, with a Russian team led by Victor Gergel and Vladimir Voevodin, from Nizhni Novgorod State and Lomonosov Moscow State University.

The award committee, which was composed of renowned computer scientists from all over the world, acknowledged the outstanding teaching activities of the group in the field of parallel computing: They follow a unique approach that combines the classic areas of parallelization and code optimization with the rational use of performance models. A performance model describes the interaction of a program with the hardware on which it runs. This enables a thorough evaluation of resource usage and whether further optimization will be beneficial to accelerate a program’s execution. In the field of scientific computing, time to solution is often the most important aspect. Hence, an awareness of how to use the available resources responsibly is mandatory. After all, many supercomputers in the academic world were procured using public money.

The team conveys these concepts not only in lectures but also in international workshops and tutorials. In 2010, Georg Hager and Gerhard Wellein have published the textbook “Introduction to High Performance Computing for Scientists and Engineers,” which is meanwhile recommended reading for many courses worldwide in the field of scientific and high performance computing. This publication with its widespread acceptance was one of the key factors leading to the committee’s decision, since it has a measurable impact on teaching activities outside the winners’ own university.

In his talk, Dr. Hager emphasized the important role of matching activities that make the Erlangen group special: Between research work and consulting for domain scientists they could develop a unique way of teaching high performance computing. KONWIHR, the “Competence Network for Scientific High Performance Computing in Bavaria,” was instrumental in this respect. KONWIHR is an initiative of the Federal State of Bavaria and supports projects that put high performance computers to good use in simulation science. RRZE has continuously been supported by KONWIHR since the year 2000. This was the foundation for the various consulting and teaching activities.

The “European Computer Science Summit” is the annual conference of “Informatics Europe” [3], the association of European computer science departments and research institutions, whose main goal is to foster the development of high quality research and teaching in information and computer sciences. The Informatics Europe Curriculum Best Practices Award was supported by Intel Corp., who generously donated the prize money. Next year the award will be given to outstanding contributions to curricular activities in the field of “Mobile and Embedded Computing.”

Further links
7. European Computer Science Summit 2011


Informatics Europe

Dr. Georg Hager
HPC Services am RRZE