PRACE Summer of HPC: An experience to remember

This post was first published on the PRACE website.

By Harry O’Neil, For PRACE.

In The Summer of HPC is a PRACE programme that offers summer placements at HPC centres across Europe. Up to 20 top applicants from across Europe are selected to participate. Participants spend two months working on projects related to PRACE technical or industrial work to produce a visualisation or video.

Luna Backes Drault was selected to participate in the inaugural Summer of HPC in 2013. “I was one of the 24 students selected from across Europe to participate in the first edition of the PRACE Summer of HPC programme,” she says. “I was part of the Laboratory of Computer-Aided Design at the University of Ljubljana, working on data visualisation for nuclear fusion simulations. I developed and improved the capabilities of the data visualisation framework, making it easier and providing more flexibility for scientists to analyse the modelling of Tokamak fusion reactors.”

Nuclear fusion promises to be the energy of the future. It is appealing for a number of reasons compared to other energy options that are being considered to replace fossil fuel based energy in the long-term. At present it is still not possible, but researchers from across Europe are working on making it a feasible source of energy. “My project aimed to improve on an existing program, the visualisation software that helps researchers analyse the results of their fusion simulations,” says Luna. “I worked on upgrading a plugin known as a UAL, or universal access layer, which allows one to access the fusion database where all the simulations are stored. This processes the information from the database directly. It’s a very complex database which only supercomputers can deal with.”

In fusion simulations, researchers collect data on what are known as CPOs (consistent physical objects), which are data structures that describe various physical aspects of fusion experiments. “These CPOs are described in the form of XML files,” explains Luna. “There already exists a translator of XML to C++ code, but we wanted to be able to translate it into other languages such as Python. However, creating a whole new translator for every target language would be too complicated. So for my project, I made a translator programme to transform the XML files containing the CPOs into an intermediate XML file, which is then easier to translate into C++, Python and other languages.”

Overall, Luna’s work will help scientists working in the area of nuclear fusion simulations to be able to improve the way that they can present their work visually. During her time at the University of Ljubljana, Luna also kept a blog about her work and eventually created a video presentation explaining her final results.


  • The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) is an international non-profit association with its seat in Brussels. The PRACE Research Infrastructure provides a persistent world-class high performance computing service for scientists and researchers from academia and industry in Europe. The computer systems and their operations accessible through PRACE are provided and funded by 5 PRACE members (BSC representing Spain, CINECA representing Italy, CSCS representing Switzerland, GCS representing Germany and GENCI representing France). The Implementation Phase of PRACE receives funding from the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement RI-312763 and from the EU’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (2014-2020) under grant agreements 653838 and 730913.

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