Edward Sargent (University of Toronto) used Compute Canada resources to perform the Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations needed to screen potential catalysts in the process to split water into its constituent parts (hydrogen and oxygen), before attempting to produce the catalyst in the laboratory. The result, published in Science in March 2016, was a tungsten-based catalyst that is 3X better than the previous world record holder.
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Arthur MacDonald (Queen's University) for his leadership of the SNO experiment, which discovered neutrino oscillations. Compute Canada (and its regional partners) have supported SNO data analysis for more than 10 years. Ongoing SNOLAB experiments such as SNO+ rely on Compute Canada for their ARC needs.
In 2015, Michael Bowling (University of Alberta) was the first to solve an imperfect information game (Texas Hold’em Poker). This artificial intelligence breakthrough was published in Science and was supported by a special Compute Canada resource allocation.
Dr. Randall Martin (Dalhousie University, Physics and Atmospheric Science) applies satellite observations and global chemical transport models to advance the understanding of atmospheric composition, and its effects on air quality, climate and biogeochemical cycling. He co-leads the development of the GEOS-Chem global chemical transport model that is used by about 100 research groups worldwide.
Impact: One of the achievements of the research team using Compute Canada resources is the first satellite-based estimate of long-term changes in global fine particulate matter. These data are being used by a variety of international organizations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as well as the World Health Organization, to assess global air quality and its implications for human well-being. Particulate matter has become the leading risk factor for environmentally-related premature mortality; improvements in outdoor air quality could reduce the 3 million premature deaths annually associated with this risk factor.
Dr. Harald Pfeiffer (University of Toronto) — Compute Canada’s advanced research computing resources were the tools used by Dr. Harald Pfeiffer’s team that contributed to one of the world’s most momentous discoveries. A team of astrophysicists at the University of Toronto played an instrumental role in providing some of the calculations that enabled a successful search for gravitational waves. They’re part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities in the United States and 14 other countries. Compute Canada experts and resources helped to create simulations to construct the waveform-models that found the gravitational waves and analyzed the properties of the source and simulations for cross-checks.
Impact: These resources enable two ground-breaking discoveries, the measurement of gravitational waves and the observation of never before seen astronomical objects. The discovery confirmed black holes exist and collide.
Dr. Susan Brown (Guelph and University of Alberta, English and Film Studies) is the director of The Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC), which is charged with providing an open web-based environment to foster the use of digital tools and resources for literary studies in and about Canada. The Collaboratory is developed around active research projects and comprises two major elements, a database and a toolkit, linked through a web-based, service-oriented architecture. The infrastructure facilitates digital literary research and provides a test bed for computational research, ranging from text analysis and visualization to the design and use of social networking tools.
Impact: CWRC extends the work of the Orlando Project, a mature humanities computing research project that continues to publish new findings and serves as an experimental dataset. Poised to launch a beta version in May 2016 and the full version in September, CWRC hosts 22 active projects, and has trained 115 scholars in research computing. Substantial digitization by one contributing project is already underway, and others are poised to start. Partner projects such as Canada’s Early Women Writers and Editing Modernism in Canada have published significant new research findings, including, in the latter case, a smartphone app based on the writings of Sheila Watson.
Dr. Yoshua Bengio (Université de Montréal, Computer Science) is a leader in the area of deep learning, which has been immensely successful in the last three years. Deep learning has been taken up by major corporations such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Baidu for speech, computer vision and natural language applications.
Impact: In 2013, Dr. Bengio’s lab won the international competition for emotion recognition in the wild (from movie clips, including both audio and image), using deep learning. Over the past year, they have developed new algorithms for deep learning that aim to replace the state-of-the-art in machine translation, and they have reached and then beaten the performance levels of predecessor systems in just a few months of research. There have also been significant theoretical advances in unsupervised learning algorithms for deep networks in Dr. Bengio’s lab over the past two years, especially using autoencoder-based and adversarial generative models. Theoretical advances on the optimization of neural networks were selected by La Recherche magazine among their 10 chosen discoveries of the year 2015.
Dr. Robert Wolkow (University of Alberta, Physics) is focused on the principle limitation facing the computer electronics industry today — specifically, that microprocessors generate too much heat, preventing further improvements in speed and computing power. While retaining silicon as the circuit platform, he is doing away with the transistor and using instead new atom-sized quantum dots as the main circuit building block. The new quantum dots allow electrons to be stored and manipulated efficiently to achieve computations while consuming very little power.
Impact: In 2015, Dr. Wolkow received Alberta’s highest award that recognizes the transfer of scientific developments to the commercial realm, the ASTECH award. The new Alberta-based company Quantum Silicon Incorporated has acquired the patents Wolkow’s team has generated at the National Institute for Nanotechnology and the University of Alberta and is building the world’s first atom scale electronic devices. This technology could be transformative. Compute Canada’s contributions make possible a close coupling of state of the art computational work with world-leading academic and industrial laboratories.