I’m a 2nd year PhD student working in the School of Materials. I work on visualising hair shine using
computer graphics techniques. So, during the day, I am examining animation in movies and games,
and looking at pretty hair samples. In the evenings, you can usually find me in exploring some
obscure part of Manchester with my bike, doodling on a piano or sampling the local brew with all
forms of cuisine available in Manchester.
Leading up to July 2014, all the signs pointed towards a fantastic month ahead. I had passed my first year viva receiving great feedback from my examiner and had been selected for the Summer of HPC program at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, working on High Performance Computing (HPC) based visualisation in the months of July and August. The program, conducted by the research infrastructure Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe(PRACE), gives late-stage undergraduates and early stage postgraduates the opportunity to work on HPC resources in 5 centres around Europe. I had applied for it as I required some experience in HPC for my own PhD work. Slovenia, for the uninitiated, is a small country in Central Europe sandwiched between more popular countries like Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary. I had no idea what to expect as I made my journey to Ljubljana (pronounced lub-li-yana), the capital city, landing in beautiful Venice and taking a shared cab ride to my destination. A far cry from the rains in Manchester, golden rays of sunshine shone brightly on me as soon as I reached Europe. It was going to be a good summer!
Slovenia, I found to my surprise, was smaller than my home state of Kerala in India and had 1/19th the number of people, a mere 2 million to the massive 38 million back home! It is densely populated with forests, lakes, beaches and of course, a part of the beautiful Alps, giving me a taste of everything I so love about nature. Of course, I did have to remind myself I was going there to work! Working out of the faculty of Mechanical Engineering, my job was to help create tools to visualize data obtained from nuclear fusion experiments conducted in various fusion reactors around Europe. I knew absolutely nothing about fusion, so it was going to be an interesting learning experience.
I entered Slovenia to beautiful vistas of towering mountains and lush-green fields, driven by an enterprising Slovenian called Ales, who was fascinated by India and was constantly chatting with me throughout the drive. I arrived in Ljubljana and was greeted warmly by my mentor Leon Kos, who showed me around town, treating me to some yummy gelato before I moved my bags to my hostel and settled in for the night. I started work fresh in the morning at 8 and got right down to work, as I was working under the watchful eyes of my mentor in the same office! My task was to build a plugin for ParaView, one of the popular visualisation software, on the Garching supercomputer based in the Max Plank institute in Germany. I had never used ParaView and my head was spinning a bit reading all the documentation related to the fusion project and ParaView.
I mainly read documentation and wrote code in the first month, producing the first version of the plugin to good reviews from my mentor.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy! Thankfully, the people within the faculty were extra nice and suggested some beautiful places to visit during the weekends. From beautiful Lake Bled, the picturesque coast side of Piran, the breathtakingly still waters within the huge caves of Skocjan to the modern quaint little city of Ljubljana, I completely fell in love with beautiful Slovenia! I was told that I had only seen the tip of the iceberg as far as Central Europe is concerned, so I promised myself that I would sleep less and travel more and perhaps, work more as well! My adventures during the second month of the internship will have to wait till the next blog post. Until then!