Event-based parallel computing - partially ordered event-triggered systems (POETS)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of of Electronics and Computer Sci

Abstract

POETS (Partially Ordered Event Triggered Systems) is a significantly different way of approaching large, compute intensive problems. The evolution of traditional computer technology has taken us from simple machines with a handful of bytes of memory and (by the standards of today) glacial clock speeds, to multi-gigabyte architectures running five or six orders of magnitude faster, but with the same fundamental process at the heart: a central core doing one thing at a time. Over the past few years, architectures have appeared containing multiple cores, but exploiting these efficiently in the general case remains a 'holy grail' of computer science.

POETS takes an alternative approach, made possible only today by the proliferation of cheap, small cores and massive reconfigurable platforms. A previous EPSRC project, BIMPA, enabled us to assemble a million core machine, creating a kind of 'meta-computer'. Rather than program explicitly the behaviour of each core and each communication between them, as is done in conventional supercomputers, here the programmer defines a set of relatively small, simple behaviours for the set of cores, and leaves them to get on with it - with the right behavioural definitions , the system 'self-organises' to produce the desired results.

BIMPA was designed primarily for neuroscience applications, but a subsidiary research objective allowed us to study the use of the architecture for alternative (physics-based) problems, and we have demonstrated that this kind of approach can lead to dramatic speed increases over conventional solution techniques.

POETS is not a general-purpose computing technique, but it is elegantly suited to a variety of traditionally compute intensive engineering and research problems, where it can produce results orders of magnitude faster than conventional machines at a fraction of the cost.

The purpose of this research project is to explore this application arena: what kind of architectures are best (fastest)? How might they be automatically configured to self-organise? How might we build bridges between this new technology and a nascent user base? Industry has invested heavily - quite sensibly - in computing technology over the years, and if POETS is to become the disruptive technology we believe it to be capable of, we need to address a serious 'hearts and minds' issue for commercial uptake to ensue.

Planned Impact

POETS is a new type of computing technique, the realisation of which will enable certain classes of (traditionally extremely compute intensive) problems to be solved, we think, orders of magnitude faster than on conventional machines. It will, in effect, enable the supercomputer-on-a-desktop, and this is important: if a compute run can be reduced in cost to the point that it is effectively free, managers can provide the resource with as little (financial) impact as a desktop PC, and engineers - of all levels - can 'play' with ideas, exploring alternative concepts and solutions freed from the constraint of worrying about the cost of their explorations. Supercompute resource will no longer be the preserve of multi-million pound enterprises; application-specific POETS engines can be ubiquitous in SMEs as well as large organisations.

As well as the obvious potential direct benefits to UK plc of providing this capability, the effects of POETS will be felt indirectly on society and industry in many ways:

Reduced time-to-market for manufacturing
Superior design quality of components and systems
Real-time non-invasive imaging of dynamic systems
Biological: medicine
Industrial: chemistry, oil, foodstuffs
Health: image-guided surgery, drug design
Weather modelling (both conventional and stratospheric)
Military: situational awareness

POETS will not revolutionise any of these directly. What it will do is make currently expensive calculations (and the corresponding infrastructure) disappear from budget sheets.

These impacts are long-range and must be grounded in the context of what we can realistically achieve with a program grant. Ideally, we would like to take the research to a level approaching the MoD Technology Readiness Level 5: "Technology basic validation in a relevant environment", by which we mean demonstrating the value of the concept to relevant industrial concerns in terms with which they are familiar. This will provide traction with investors and open the door to the next stage of exploitation and commercialisation.

Publications

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Andrew Brown (2017) Parallel Computing is Everywhere

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Andrew Brown (2017) Distributed event-based computing

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Brown A (2018) SpiNNaker: Event-Based Simulation-Quantitative Behavior in IEEE Transactions on Multi-Scale Computing Systems

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He C (2017) A Fully-Pipelined Hardware Design for Gaussian Mixture Models in IEEE Transactions on Computers

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Hung E (2017) Transparent In-Circuit Assertions for FPGAs in IEEE Transactions on Computer-Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems

 
Description Collaboration with E-Therapeutics 
Organisation e-Therapeutics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Development of algorithms, hardware and software for accelerating problem solving for network analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Providing important practical problem definitions in the domain of network analysis, evaluation of the experimental data and results.
Impact Earlier there was a successful impact generated from this collaboration with colleagues in Computing Science: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/research/impact/casestudies/drug-discovery/#discovermore This work continues now under the POETS project. Language and Hardware Acceleration Backend for Graph Processing, Andrey Mokhov, Alessandro de Gennaro, Ghaith Tarawneh, Jonny Wray, Georgy Lukyanov, Sergey Mileiko, Joe Scott, Alex Yakovlev, Andrew Brown, published in Springer, 2019 https://www.springerprofessional.de/en/language-and-hardware-acceleration-backend-for-graph-processing/16353914
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with Microsoft Research 
Organisation Microsoft Research
Country Global 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Dr Andrey Mokhov, member of the Newcastle team has been working closely with Microsoft Research on developing modelling foundation based on graph algebra for build systems. Andrey Mokhov holds a research fellowship from Royal Society in which MSR is a key partner.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Simon Peyton-Jones, one of the leading Research Scientists at MSR, Cambridge, collaborated with Dr Andrey Mokhov. They published a number of papers. Andrey Mokhov holds a research fellowship from Royal Society in which MSR is a key partner.
Impact Joint publications
Start Year 2015
 
Description POETS partners 
Organisation Imperial College London
Department Department of Computing
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Collaborator Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Impact It is too early in the project for any outputs.
Start Year 2016
 
Description POETS partners 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department Institute of Neuroscience
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Collaborator Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Impact It is too early in the project for any outputs.
Start Year 2016
 
Description POETS partners 
Organisation University of Southampton
Department School of Electronics and Computer Science Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Collaborator Contribution Research partners on POETS project
Impact It is too early in the project for any outputs.
Start Year 2016
 
Title POETS Application Generator (pml) 
Description pml is a tool that composes POETS applications from manifest, code and graph files. It provides a developer-friendly input format, abstract programming models and programmable code generation functions to developers wishing to write software for POETS. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Not known 
URL https://www.poets-project.org/tools/
 
Title POETS Simulation Stack (pstack) 
Description pstack is a distributed POETS simulation stack based on Redis. It exposes the compute power of a hetrogeneous array of POETS back-end engines to multiple users in a POSIX-like environment. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact Not known 
URL https://www.poets-project.org/tools/
 
Description Bacterial Cell Biology - POETS shares its research worldwide (UK - University of Newcastle) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting with Prof. Harwood was 1:1. CBCB seminar was around 60 people, RA's to Professors.
The meeting with Prof. Harwood was a discussion on what research areas might be relevant and who were good contacts within the university in these areas. He then invited me to the CBCB seminar. Here a brief outline of the POETS project was given to the research staff and people were invited to suggest applications from their own research areas that might be worth pursuing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Blog on Energetic Computing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This blog is intended to communicate my views on a number of topics around Energy-Modulated Computing, such as Energy-driven computing, Real Power Computing, Electromagnetism, Causality, Asynchronous Circuits and Systems etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019,2020
URL https://blogs.ncl.ac.uk/alexyakovlev/
 
Description Evaluating the potential for POETS to support near term Covid modelling 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In response to UKRI call for rapid response Covid funding, the POETS investigators led work evaluating the potential for POETS to support near term Covid modelling. This talk was initially given to internal colleagues and potential collaborators. It was used as a basis for consdiering submitting a bid to EPSRC and an early draft was sent to EPSRC for comments. Ultimately there was a decision across the team not to submit a formal proposal.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Human/Bacterial Cell Interaction / Aelius Biotech - POETS shares its research worldwide (UK - University of Newcastle) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Colin Harwood recommended speaking to this dept. during our meeting. The team have a startup focusing on modelling bacterial action in human digestion. A brief outline of the POETS project was given and discussion was made on how this might be used in their own research area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description International Symposium Workshop on Many-Core Computing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact International Symposium Workshop on Many-Core Computing featured presentations from speakers from the UK, and overseas; presenting a rich selection of Computer Architecture and Software topics, ranging from modelling the human brain, over new ways of synthesizing hardware (logic in FPGAs) from Software-level descriptions, and new efficient neural network processors, to transformations of algorithms to be more energy efficient and higher performance. The talks were presented from a mixture of EPSRC project members and external researchers from both academia and industry. The symposium brought the scientific community together allowing the invited guests and project members to have open discussions and debates. POETS PI Prof Andrew Brown gave a talk entitled "Event-Driven Computing" about the work of the POETS researcher teams, which was very well received. Prof Brown also took part in a panel debate "Design for Trillions of Smart Objects: What are Key Research Drivers?" chaired by POETS Co-I Prof Alex Yakovlev of University of Newcastle.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.prime-project.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/206/2018/02/Talk-14-Andrew-Brown-POETS-Partial...
 
Description Manycore Summer School 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact POETS PI Prof Andrew Brown delivered talks at the MaRIONet Summer School (EPSRC funded) on Event-Based Computing, covering the history and the future of approaching real-world engineering computing problems using simulation including the array of applications this approach has. Students engaged in discussion and interest in the subject was raised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://manycore.org.uk/ss_slides/andrew_brown_slides.pdf
 
Description Newton Gateway to Mathematics - Novel Computational Paradigms 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact POETS Co-I and University of Cambridge lead investigator, Prof Simon Moore, gave a talk entitled "Communication Locality in Computation: Software, Many-core Processors and Brains" as part of a Newton Gateway to Mathematics 2 day event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://gateway.newton.ac.uk/presentation/2018-10-30/24492
 
Description POETS Internal Seminar Series - Analogue Circuit Simulation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Andrew Brown gave a talk to the POETS team on Analogue (continuous) circuit simulation. The talk included equation formulation and solution, March-in-time (starting a simulation and dynamic timestep control), Gyrators and mixed tableau formulation, Continuous thermal simulation and 4D relaxation. There were details for the maths underpinning the thermal anaysis that still need to be worked out and provided material for a 4D reactive thermal POETS analysis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description POETS Internal Seminar Series - Potential Directions for Financial Fraud Detections using Event-based Computing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr David Thomas gave a talk to the POETS team about Potential Directions for Financial Fraud Detections using Event-based Computing as potential future applications that could utilise and benefit from the POETS hardware.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description POETS Internal Seminar Series - Users & Programmers: Introduction to seismic exploration and velocity model building using FWI 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of the POETS Internal Seminar Series, Dr R Gareth Williams gave a talk on seismic exploration and velocity model building, as potential future applications that could utilise and benefit from the POETS hardware.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description POETS Internal Seminar Series - Users & Programmers: Publishing papers, especially discipline spanning papers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Andrew Brown gave a talk to the POETS team about writing papers for submission, including planning the paper, targeting the paper, matching the story to the audience and the importance of including pictures and graphs in the paper. The team includes a number of early career researchers who found the talk very helpful and are using the instructions to better write papers they are currently working on, with the aim of increasing acceptances at high quality journals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description POETS Makes an Impact at DATE 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact POETS was well represented at the event and made the most of opportunities to share research progress with a wide audience. The demos used a remote link to the POETS prototype at University of Cambridge, showing 3 applications running on the POETS hardware. These were 1) Graph Traversal Algorithms, 2) the Heat Dissipation Simulation and 3) Particle Simulations.

https://poets-project.org/download/DATE19-POETS-poster.pdf
https://poets-project.org/download/DATE19-POETS-demos-abstract.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://past.date-conference.com/proceedings-archive/2019/html/ubooth.html
 
Description POETS Makes an Impact at FCCM 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact POETS was well represented at the event and made the most of opportunities to share research progress with a wide audience. The demos used a remote link to the POETS prototype at University of Cambridge, showing applications running on the POETS hardware and provided a live visualisation of the heat map of the hardware to show whicvh tyhreads, cores and FPGAs were sending messages.

https://poets-project.org/download/FCCM19-POETS-poster.pdf
https://poets-project.org/download/FCCM19-POETS-demo-abstract.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.fccm.org/past/2019/home/demo-night/
 
Description POETS Talk at EPSRC-Funded Network eFutures 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Mark Vousden gave a talk called "Partially-Ordered Event Triggered Systems, and the Challenges of Event-Based Computing" at an eFutures event on 'Rethinking Computing Architectures for Big Data and AI'. eFutures is EPSRC (link is external) funded network whose key aim is to help consolidate the academic community engaged in all aspects of electronics research in technology and design in a bid to tackle current issues and address the major challenges of the future. This paticular event was especially aimed at early career researchers, who were interested in learning about computer architectures, including a discussion on the POETS engine.
https://poets-project.org/download/poets_challenges.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://efutures.ac.uk/rethinking-computing-architectures-big-data-and-ai-event
 
Description POETS shares its research worldwide, Belgium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Andrey Mokhov, the lead POETS investigator at Newcastle, gave a talk on the distributed drug discovery application the POETS team is developing in collaboration with our industrial partner e-Therapeutics. The talk introduced the architecture and discussed ways to accelerate average shortest path computations on large protein interactomes, as well as using distributed genetic algorithms to find promising drug candidates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description POETS shares its research worldwide, Sweden 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Andrey Mokhov, the lead POETS investigator at Newcastle, gave a talk on the distributed drug discovery application the POETS team is developing in collaboration with our industrial partner e-Therapeutics. The talk introduced the architecture and discussed ways to accelerate average shortest path computations on large protein interactomes, as well as using distributed genetic algorithms to find promising drug candidates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.it.uu.se/research/computer_systems/seminars/180920
 
Description POETS shares its research worldwide, Switzerland 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact CECAM (Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire) is an organization devoted to the promotion of fundamental research on advanced computational methods and to their application to important problems in frontier areas of science and technology. They host a regular programme of international flagship events and attract attendees from across the world. The workshop was well attended and the talk given led to good questions and discussions on POETS research afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.cecam.org/workshop-4-1520.html?presentation_id=18551
 
Description POETS shares its research worldwide, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Julian Shillcock, POETS visiting expert gave a talk "Bacteria, Entropy and the Need for Speed" demonstrating usage of simulations of dissipative particle dynamics (DPD) to study proteins in cells of chronic diseases such as Ahlzeimer's and ALS. DPD falls into the first class of industrial case classes POETS is addressing - homogenous problems. The SET research group hosted the talk, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and attendees included researchers from several UK universities.

https://www.bio.ecs.soton.ac.uk//events/B216
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description PhD Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Postgrad LIVE! SOUTHAMPTON is an on-campus Masters & PhD study fair at the University of Southampton, and takes place each year in February. The event hosts over 50 universities and institutions and includes a comprehensive talks programme about Masters & PhD study. Researchers from the POETS team attended and distributed brochures about the POETS project, funded by EPSRC, and provided details about a range of fully-funded PhD opportunities associated with the POETS project for students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Researcher visit to e-Therapeutics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Over the two days, 2 postdoctoral researchers met with various employees of e-Therapeutics, mainly computational biologists, and learnt about what their typical workflow looked like. These meetings focused on details such as where data was obtained from, the types of computations they wished to perform, and the latencies/throughput they expected/tolerated. These interviews helped us gather a clearer picture as to how POETS could improve their development cycle. Researchers also presented to e-Therapeutics employees the current status of POETS and the current developments underway that might directly relate to e-Therapeutics, which generated good discussions. Several analysis stages of the e-Therapeutics workflow were identified as potential areas where POETS could be beneficial, (mainly network analysis techniques Steiner Trees, counting triangles, network rewiring).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Statistical Genetics - POETS shares its research worldwide (UK - University of Newcastle) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A brief outline of the POETS project was given. Previous applications that had been explored were described and the strengths and limitations of the current hardware were explained. Ian then gave several suggestions on applications that might be suitable for the project. He suggested imputation, which was subsequently investigated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Visiting Lecture Series in Norwegian University of Science and Technology Trondheim 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Professor Andrew Brown delivered a series of four 90-minute lectures to postgraduate students at the University of Kaiserslautern as a visiting international speaker. Seminar I covered some history of computing before introducing the concept of parallel computing, focussing on event-based computation to solve real-world engineering computing problems. Seminar II described event-based simulation of neural circuits using the SpiNNaker machine, the SpiNNaker machine's architecture and how it produces biologically realistic behaviour. Seminar III described the POETS engine, another event-based machine that can be exploited for a much wider application portfolio than SpiNNaker, covering in some detail how the POETS engine uses event-based techniques to solve the real problem of space-filling neural synthesis. Seminar IV discussed a number of topics allied to event-based computation, including solving heat equations, investigating reliability and presenting an overview of some areas that can benefit from event-based computing such as computational chemistry, weather modelling, financial market modelling and genome searching.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Visiting Lecture Series in University of Klaiserslauten 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Professor Andrew Brown delivered a series of four 90-minute lectures to postgraduate students at the University of Kaiserslautern as a visiting international speaker. Seminar I covered some history of computing before introducing the concept of parallel computing, focussing on event-based computation to solve real-world engineering computing problems. Seminar II described event-based simulation of neural circuits using the SpiNNaker machine, the SpiNNaker machine's architecture and how it produces biologically realistic behaviour. Seminar III described the POETS engine, another event-based machine that can be exploited for a much wider application portfolio than SpiNNaker, covering in some detail how the POETS engine uses event-based techniques to solve the real problem of space-filling neural synthesis. Seminar IV discussed a number of topics allied to event-based computation, including solving heat equations, investigating reliability and presenting an overview of some areas that can benefit from event-based computing such as computational chemistry, weather modelling, financial market modelling and genome searching.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Visiting Lecture Series in University of Klaiserslauten 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Professor Andrew Brown delivered a series of four 90-minute lectures to postgraduate students at the University of Kaiserslautern as a visiting international speaker. Seminar I covered some history of computing before introducing the concept of parallel computing, focussing on event-based computation to solve real-world engineering computing problems.

Seminar II described event-based simulation of neural circuits using the SpiNNaker machine, the SpiNNaker machine's architecture and how it produces biologically realistic behaviour.

Seminar III described the POETS engine, another event-based machine that can be exploited for a much wider application portfolio than SpiNNaker, covering in some detail the current state of the POETS project - current architecture, supporting software infrastructure and tool chains. Further explanation is given on a range of applications such as the heat equation solution, neural synthesis, earthquake modeling, skyrmions, neural simulation and financial and societal fraud detection showing how, as problem sizes grow, the speed advantage of the POETS technique become more and more significant.

Seminar IV examines more deeply a particular application domain - computational (bio) chemistry, focussing on an algorithmic technique known as Dissipative Particle Dynamics (DPD). Looking at problems causing significant societal problems lacking effective biochemical interventions - such as Alzheimer's - the talk described how event-based processing can be used to massively accelerate simulations that can make significant contributions to the elucidation of these problems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020