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A Conversation with Our Summer Intern: Taking in the View from the Frontlines of HPC

Posted on August 12, 2022

Last spring, when Mateus Burns was contemplating the end of his junior year in the Aerospace Engineering program at Iowa State University, he knew there were many ways he could apply what he was learning as an engineer to work as a summer intern. But what would be the best fit?

He soon realized that, for him, computation would be a great way to pair his skills as an engineer with his passion for technology.

Mateus Burns spent the summer working alongside the team of engineers at Advanced Clustering to learn the ins and outs of Linux and coding for parallel high performance computing.

Mateus was offered the opportunity to spend the summer working alongside the engineers at Advanced Clustering Technologies, a Kansas City-based company that has been building custom, turn-key high performance computing solutions for customers for more than 20 years.

“What was really intriguing to me was the idea that I only see the front end of high performance computing,” Mateus said. “I had a fellowship with NASA in Kansas at Wichita State University. We did a lot of CFD but I never really knew the ins and outs of how the computations worked. I just took for granted that these things were getting solved on the back end.”

The opportunity to learn from the Advanced Clustering team was exciting for Mateus, who looked forward to seeing the inner workings of building HPC hardware and software solutions.

Advanced Clustering has also assisted students with the University of Toronto Formula SAE Racing Team, which used the company’s on-demand cloud solution, called ACTnowHPC, to run computational fluid dynamics or CFD simulations. You can read more about the SAE Racing Team project on our website by clicking here.

Advanced Clustering encourages engineers, scientists and researchers to utilize HPC resources because the company has learned that customers who have experience utilizing HPC resources will gain knowledge that helps them if and when they need to configure an HPC cluster prior to making a hardware purchase.

Mateus said, “I wanted to gain more Linux sysadmin experience. There’s so much you have to do with Linux in engineering. I wanted to learn how to code better. There is such a good team of coders and programmers here. I went into this hoping for one thing, but I came out of it with even more.”

At the start of his internship at Advanced Clustering, Mateus learned about the important role networking plays in the parallel computing process. He said the biggest takeaway was learning “how delicate the systems are.”

Mateus was then given a project that would give him an opportunity to create something of his own with help from the Advanced Clustering engineering team.

“We wanted to create a plugin that will help identify and solve problems,” Mateus said. “For instance, when people have trouble installing an OS, we don’t always know what the problem is. The plugin I was helping to develop runs a series of tests to check the communication between the nodes. That’s important to our understanding of how to fix things when they go wrong. That helps the customer have a good experience.”

During his time at Advanced Clustering Technologies, Mateus Burns worked with the engineering team to develop a plugin to identify and solve hardware and software problems.

The outcome for Mateus was a learning experience beyond anything he had received so far in his education. “In this suite, I’m not doing serial programming. It’s parallel coding and debugging. The physical outcome is to take any job and extrapolate what’s happening behind the scenes. What’s going on in the machine?”

With his three month internship concluded, Mateus said the plugin he sought to build is off to a great start. “The foundation is there,” he said. “More will be added, but I gave it a solid beginning.”

Aside from the months spent coding alongside the Linux experts at Advanced Clustering, Mateus said he also gained a better understanding of how to accomplish things in a professional setting. “My biggest takeaway has been a higher level of understanding when it comes to company dynamics. For instance, how to communicate with your colleagues in a business environment. How to be respectful. This experience has helped me a lot. There are no classes on this at the university.”

Mateus said he also learned a lot from what he calls ‘the computing brain.’ “I have a much greater appreciation for the back-end processes that we engineers usually take for granted. When you have a better understanding of the big picture, you can attack problems better.” Mateus said he is thankful that with help from Advanced Clustering, he was able to experience the workplace as a summer intern.

“I am so thankful for this opportunity,” Matteus said. “This truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I never knew I could learn so much outside of school. I’m just so grateful.”

In mid-August, Mateus will return to the Iowa State campus to begin his senior year of study. Fresh off his internship, he’s optimistic about the future. “At this point, all roads are open. This position has given me insight. I’m a learner and a lover of machines. The world is open. As long as you’re in technology, I think you are where you need to be.”

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