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OSG’s Rob Quick and Kyle Gross share expertise in Rwanda and Italy

While many of us may sometimes take for granted the amount of computing resources we have, for many researchers around the globe, advanced computing resources are scarce, as is the expertise to take advantage of them. Open Science Grid (OSG) staffers are working to change that.

In fact, every two years, they’ve journeyed to a new location in Sub-Saharan Africa to share their computing knowledge and skills with graduate students from around the continent.

This summer, OSG Operations Officer Robert Quick and Operations Support Manager Kyle Gross traveled to the University of Rwanda in Kigali, Rwanda.

The team headed a portion of a three-week summer school, called the African School of Fundamental Physics and Applications (ASP), at the university’s College of Sciences and Technology, as part of an outreach campaign led by the Distributed Organization for Scientific and Academic Research (DOSAR)—a consortium of 13 universities across the U.S. About 70 graduate students attended the school and gained hands-on experience and valuable information to bring back to their respective universities.

During this training seminar, students were introduced to the Open Science Grid (OSG) distributed high throughput computing ecosystem, among others.

“While there are a few hundred universities in Europe, Asia, and the Americas that have access to cyberinfrastructure like the OSG, many thousands more don’t—especially in Africa,” explained Quick.

The biennial summer school is organized by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Besides Quick and Gross, dozens of experts flew in from CERN and other parts of the world to give lectures and mentor ASP students in many different fields of physics.

Kigali, Rwanda. About 70 graduate students attended the ASP in Africa.

Kigali, Rwanda. About 70 graduate students attended the ASP in Africa.

“Most of these students had never used computing the way we do and they were very excited to learn,” said Gross. “There were lectures detailing the different computing infrastructures and how we use distributed high throughput computing to our advantage. Exercises then reinforced the lectures, from executing jobs on local resources to computational workflows running simultaneously on computers distributed across the world.”

But first…

Before the African school began, Quick was able to tack on two weeks in Trieste, Italy, at the International Center for Theoretical Physics for the first-ever CODATA-RDA Research Data Science Summer School.

“One of the good things about this new school is that we’re promoting openness and sharing in basically every aspect of research,” added Quick. “Open science data means that new eyes can look at data and potentially make new discoveries.”

Trieste, Italy. Many students from around the world attended the summer school in Italy.

Like the ASP in Africa, this school is aimed at educating students from developing countries worldwide who may not have the kind of data science they need. Through lectures and workshops, the students learn the basics of what it takes to do data science by building a foundation with some statistical software, database software, and basic operating systems like UNIX, among others.

“Cuba was represented there, which was the first time I’d seen Cuban students in any of these outreach classes,” explained Quick. “They told me that it’s very difficult for them to access any resources outside of Cuba. We were very happy to have them at the school.”

It’s the small steps that help shape the future of research globally.

– Sam Stalion and Greg Moore