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IU Kokomo professor part of $800,000 NSF grant-winning group

August 3, 2012

KOKOMO, Ind. — Patrick Motl, Indiana University Kokomo assistant professor of physics, is part of a team of astronomers and computer scientists awarded a nearly $800,000 INSPIRE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Transit of VenusPatrick Motl points out Venus as it crosses in front of the sun.

The grant will fund a five-year interdisciplinary project called STAR, or Scalable toolkit for Transformative Astrophysics Research. Astronomers and computer scientists will work together on parallel computing, which allows them to solve a problem in a shorter time period using multiple computers. Currently, they can get benefit using up to 1,000 computers, but astronomers need to be able to use more computers in their studies of white dwarf stars.

"Both groups need to work together to achieve their goals," Motl said. "We are working to develop a new and different approach to getting multiple computers to work together to solve the same problem, which will help our simulations be better and faster. We do simulations of merging white stars, which take a very long time, even on 1,000 computers. If we succeed, we can also improve computer science across a variety of fields."

Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, said NSF grants are highly competitive.

"The fact that Dr. Motl and his colleagues were funded by NSF is a tribute to the quality of their research and the quality of the team they have assembled," Chauret said. "This is a great opportunity, and Indiana University Kokomo is proud of his accomplishments. Ultimately, studies such as this one will give us more insights into the evolution of stars, and ultimately, the evolution of the universe."

The group also includes Louisiana State University faculty Hartmut Kaiser, Center for Computation and Technology; and Geoff Clayton, Juhan Frank and Joel Tohline, Department of Physics and Astronomy; and Maciej Brodwicz, IU Bloomington, formerly of the Center for Computation and Technology.

Motl earned his Ph.D in physics from LSU, where Frank and Tohline were his dissertation advisors. They have been simulating double white dwarf mergers with Clayton for the past few years, then started working with the Center for Computation and Technology team to improve parallel computing.

INSPIRE, which stands for Integrated National Science Foundation Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education, was established to address some of the most complicated and pressing problems shared by multiple scientific disciplines.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 08/26/2014