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Evan Donato and Maryia Vasilenka and the rest of Team MGHPCC are using equipment from Symmetric Computing. Image by: Colleen Locke
November 10, 2016

Computer Science Students to Represent UMass Boston in Supercomputing Competition


  • Boston
14 Teams from Around Country to Compete in Salt Lake City Starting November 12

Two UMass Boston undergraduate computer science students are part of a team that’s going to Salt Lake City this weekend to compete in the Student Cluster Competition. The competition is part of the Supercomputing Conference, the largest and most prestigious conference in computing. This is the first time UMass Boston students have been able to take part.

Richard Anderson ’95, the founder and CTO of Symmetric Computing, first got involved with this competition last year when he provided an application. When he was asked to do the same thing again, he said he would – as long as UMass Boston students would be able to take part. Sophomore Evan Donato and third-year computer science major Maryia Vasilenka are part of Team MGHPCC, a six-person team that’s made of students from UMass Boston, Boston University, MIT, and Harvard University. Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Program Director of Computer Science Ming Ouyang is an advisor for the team.

“There are five announced applications and the students run these applications to demonstrate their computing abilities, the power of the systems, and there’s a sixth application which will be announced at the competition so nobody can prepare for it,” Ouyang said.

Donato says the team has been meeting weekly at BU since July, going over concepts in high-performance computing and preparing for the other tasks: high performance computing benchmarking, scientific visualization (like a flight simulator), sequencing, and password cracking. To make it even trickier, the power consumption is limited to 3,000 watts, and they only have 48 hours to complete the tasks.

“[The power limitation] adds a little bit of complexity in your planning, and sort of levels the playing field, so it’s not just throw as much money as possible at the task and whoever has the most wins. It gives us some parameters that you have to exist within,” Donato said.

The College of Science and Mathematics and the Computer Science Department is providing financial support to Donato and Vasilenka. Symmetric Computing, which has been working for the last six years out of UMass Boston’s business incubator, the Venture Development Center, is providing equipment to Team MGHPCC. Anderson says this competition will expose the students to potential job and internship opportunities.

“Last year everyone walked away with major internship offers from Google and Microsoft, and some people made it into National Labs as well,” Anderson said.

“It’s helpful to know supercomputing strategies, applications, and usage. It’s applicable to pretty much any computer problem,” Vasilenka said.

And it’s fun, too, right?

“It’s what we live for,” Donato said.

“I was down from the very beginning,” Vasilenka said.

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit