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Featured Researcher

Claude-André Faucher-Giguère

Head shot of Calude-Ande Faucher-GiguereClaude-André Faucher-Giguère is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a recent recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award.  He studies galaxy formation using cosmological hydrodynamical simulations, leading a project called FIRE ("Feedback In Realistic Environments") that develops new simulations which incorporate detailed models of stellar evolution to study the impact of processes such as supernova explosions on the large-scale evolution of galaxies. Professor Faucher-Giguère's simulations follow the formation and evolution of galaxies from the Big Bang to present, and are used to make predictions for observations by state-of-the-art telescopes on the ground and in space.

Professor Faucher-Giguère's group is part of Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and has access to over 1,000 dedicated cores and four high memory nodes on Northwestern’s high performance computing cluster, Quest. To develop and run the simulations for his research, he leverages the local computing power of Quest, as well as national supercomputing resources such as NSF's XSEDE and Blue Waters, and NASA’s Pleiades. “Quest is essential for our research because it gives us rapid access to the parallel computing facilities that we need to develop and test our simulation and analysis codes,” stated Professor Faucher-Giguère. In addition to development, Quest is used for moderate scale runs which use 100-500 cores for a few days to a couple months.  Running simulations on Quest enables Professor Faucher-Giguère's group to optimize their simulation codes, eliminate bugs, and establish the efficiencies needed to secure time on (and take full advantage of) national supercomputers. National supercomputers are necessary for large simulations requiring upwards of 10,000 cores for several months, and the optimization done on Quest is key to writing winning proposals. The large data sets produced by simulations are generally analyzed locally, most often using the high memory nodes on Quest.

Additionally, Professor Faucher-Giguère has worked with Research Computing Services' Visualization team to create an application called Firefly, which enables users to visually and interactively explore the data produced by simulations. Professor Faucher-Giguère's CAREER award will support undergraduate students doing research in computational astrophysics using Quest as well as the development of education packages for Firefly. Firefly is used for education and outreach at both the 3D wall at Northwestern and the Adler Planetarium.

One of the exciting frontiers for Professor Faucher-Giguère’s research is to develop models for the formation and evolution of supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies. To do this, the simulations will need to account for the bigger galaxies where these kinds of black holes are found. Just as the Universe is always expanding, so are the computing resources needed to answer bigger and more complex questions.

Last Updated: 19 July 2017

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