2013 OSG User School

The 2013 OSG User School was held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison,  June 24–27, 2013. The OSG provided a four-day training program that focused on hands-on activities and direct interactions with OSG staff and local STEM researchers who use large-scale computation. The students got plenty of experience using the same high-throughput computing systems that researchers use and were led through the entire process of turning research goals into actual computational workflows, then running them to completion. Students ran hundreds or even thousands of jobs throughout the week, encountering and learning to deal with a variety of common, real-life technical challenges.

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The goal of the School was to train students in the fundamentals of high throughput computing. By the end of the School, students were able to:

This year, we had a total of 26 students, mostly graduate students from U.S. institutions, but also a couple of undergraduates, a Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI) staff member, an XSEDE Campus Champion, and even one of the OSG Grid Operations Center staff members. The students came from a wide range of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, computing, electrical engineering, geography, physics, radiology, and statistics. Despite their diversity, the students quickly bonded; throughout the week, they worked together, ate together, and found extracurricular activities to do together.

Based on evaluations and informal feedback, the event was a success. Students were happy with the venue, the instructors, the content, and of course the tasty UW Babcock Hall ice cream. From the evaluations, the numerical scores were comparable to ones from previous years. From the comments sections, students were particularly pleased with the hands-on exercises, interactions with the instructors, the interactive role play simulation of a high-throughput computing system, and the presentations by local researchers. And in an unsolicited email following the event, student Guohui Wu from the University of Missouri-Columbia wrote: “Again, I want to say ‘Thank you’ to all of you for all the efforts you have invested in the OSG User School this year to make my travel, staying and most importantly, learning at Madison so pleasant and unforgettable. You all are doing a FANTASTIC job.”

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Since the School ended, we have stayed in contact with the students. Many of them traveled to San Diego for the XSEDE13 Conference. As previously published in the OSG Newsletter, a group of our students formed a team for the Student Programming Challenge and won the contest. For a final School assignment, students were asked to submit a poster or short paper, and we are in the process of reviewing those now. And this is just one facet of the ongoing mentoring between the students and the OSG School instructors. We stay in touch with the students throughout the year to see how they are progressing and to offer help when needed. For example, we know that some students continue to use OSG resources to experiment with HTC and to apply their learning to their own scientific workflows.

Overall the OSG User School was a hit, and we welcome a new group of students to the OSG community!

~Tim Cartwright