From Science Node= Women in STEM-“A day in the life of an Irish particle physicist” Sinéad Ryan

Science Node bloc

Science Node

02 Jun, 2017
Tristan Fitzpatrick

Sinéad Ryan is a quantum chromodynamics expert in Dublin. She relies on PRACE HPC resources to calculate the mass of quarks, gluons, and hadrons — and uncover the secrets of the universe.

Uncovering the mysteries of the cosmos is just another day in the office for Sinéad Ryan.


Ryan, professor of theoretical high energy physics at Trinity College Dublin, specializes in quantum chromodynamics (QCD). The field examines how quarks and gluons form hadrons, the fundamental starting point of our universe.

“Quarks and gluons are the building blocks for everything in the world around us and for our universe,” says Ryan. “The question is, how do these form the matter that we see around us?”

To answer this, Ryan performs numerical simulations on high-performance computing (HPC) resources managed by the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe’s (PRACE).

“I think PRACE is crucial for our field,” says Ryan, “and I’m sure other people would tell you the same thing.”

When quarks are pulled apart, energy grows between them, similar to the tension in a rubber band when it is stretched. Eventually, enough energy is produced to create more quarks which then form hadrons in accordance with Einstein’s equation E=MC2.

The problem, according to Ryan, comes in solving the equations of QCD. PRACE’s HPC resources make Ryan’s work possible because they enable her to run simulations on a larger scale than simple pen and paper would allow.

“It’s a huge dimensional integral to solve, and we’re talking about solving a million times a million matrices that we must invert,” says Ryan.

“This is where HPC comes in. If you want to make predictions in the theory, you need to be able to do the simulations numerically.”

In Ireland, the Irish Centre for High-End Computing is one resource Ryan has tapped in her research, but PRACE enables her and her collaborators to access resources not just locally but across the world.

IITAC IBM supercomputer

“This sort of work tends to be very collaborative and international,” says Ryan. “We can apply through PRACE for time on HPC machines throughout Europe. In my field, any machine anywhere is fair game.”

Besides providing resources, PRACE also determines whether HPC resources are suitable for the kinds of research questions scientists are interested in answering.

“PRACE’s access to these facilities means that good science gets done on these machines,” says Ryan. “These are computations that are based around fundamental questions posed by people who have a track record for doing good science and asking the right questions. I think that’s crucial.”

Without PRACE’s support, Ryan’s work examining how quarks and gluons form matter and the beginnings of our universe would be greatly diminished, leaving us one step further behind uncovering the building blocks of the universe.

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

“We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”