Gabriele Abbati: My internship experience at CSCS

CSCS offers internships at various levels and in most organizational units. We sat down with Gabriele Abbati who did an internship at CSCS in 2015 and who told us his experience:

Could you shortly introduce yourself?

My name is Gabriele Abbati, I’m from Italy and currently I’m a Master student in Computational Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich. Before that, I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematical Engineering at Politecnico di Milano.

What does fascinate you in the world of supercomputing?

In my opinion supercomputing adds a new dimension to the research process and physics comprehension. In some fields simulations have already overcome the limits of a real physical lab and speeded up the building and development of experiments, making a step forward in investigating reality. It is necessary though to be able to exploit cleverly this computational power.

How did you first hear about CSCS?

During the first semester of my studies at ETH, I took a course called High Performance Computing, jointly taught by Professors Koumoutsakos and Troyer. As part of the course, we made a trip to Lugano to visit CSCS: here we took a tour of the building, got to see the machine room and attended some lectures given some of the researchers working there.

When and for which intern position did you apply to CSCS?

I applied in Spring 2015 for an intern position starting the following September, namely “GPU porting of the RAMSES code”, under the supervision of Claudio Gheller.

Why did you wanted to intern at CSCS?

CSCS represented a great opportunity for me. I’ve been studying mathematical modeling and programming for all of my university years, and this internship gave me the opportunity of applying that in a real laboratory. Moreover, CSCS is a world-famous HPC center, with an important role in the development of new technologies and cutting-edge computational research.

What project did you work on during your internship at CSCS?

My job at the CSCS consisted in re-writing some portions of the RAMSES code (used for astrophysical simulations) in order to enable GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) parallelization. These simulations are used as a virtual laboratory by the University of Zurich: computational results and real astronomical observations are compared and critically analyzed for a better comprehension of births of stars and galaxies.

How would you describe a regular day as intern at CSCS?

I usually started my working day around 9 in the morning and finished at 17:30-18 in the evening, with a lunch break in the middle of the day (the flexible working hours offered at CSCS let you some freedom in organizing your days and weeks). During the time spent there, I mainly worked at my desk coding, but it was not rare to have some meeting with my supervisor discussing about present problems, or attend some of the conferences offered by my colleagues. Also, there is always the chance for interesting conversations and discussions with the people working there that gave me a new point of view about what I was doing.

How do you like to work in Lugano?

Lugano is a really nice town which can offer a very high quality of life. Ticino is a beautiful region, with mountains, lakes, valleys to visit and explore. Furthermore, there is the possibility to do several sports, from cycling to hiking and running.

What will you take home from this experience?

I learned a lot about using and understanding clusters, high performance computing and developed new skills in programming and debugging which will be definitely useful in the future. Furthermore, it was a good opportunity of professional but also personal growth.