Purdue team wins best student paper award at national research computing conference

  • August 19, 2019
  • Science Highlights

A team of students who deployed an intrusion detection system on Purdue’s research network was awarded the Best Student Paper in the “Facilitation of Advanced Research Computing” track at the recent Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) conference.

The detection system, known as PULSAR, aligned Purdue’s research cybersecurity framework with industry standards, making it easier for faculty to work with industries such as aerospace or defense. It also gave the students involved hands-on experience with research computing and cybersecurity. They were mentored by ITaP Research Computing and ITaP Security and Policy staff.

“Our goal was to guide the students in making informed and thoughtful design decisions,” says Erik Gough, a senior scientific applications analyst for ITaP Research Computing and the lead mentor. “We weren’t just giving them tasks. The students were involved at the planning and decision-making level, and then also at the implementation level.”

The two-year project, supported by an NSF cybersecurity infrastructure grant, was a collaboration between Purdue’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS), the departments of Computer Science and Computer and Information Technology, ITaP Security and Policy and ITaP Research Computing.

“Some of the people I met at PEARC couldn’t believe we had as much freedom as we did,” says Brian Werts, a junior on the PULSAR team who was also a student volunteer at the conference. “I think it’s really helping the industry out to get students this kind of experience early.”

“This is not something I would have gotten to do in a classroom setting,” agrees Shivam Trivedi, a recent Purdue graduate in computer and information technology who is applying what he learned on the PULSAR project as an IT specialist at Samsara, Inc.

In addition to Werts and Trivedi, students who worked on the project include Lauren Featherstun, another recent computer and information technology graduate who now works in information security at Facebook; Phil Wu and Sagar Narayan, both recent computer and information technology graduates who now work in network support at Cisco Meraki; Nathan DeMien, a sophomore in computer and information technology; and Jacob Sharp and Callum Gundlach, who were high school students when they worked on PULSAR and are now Purdue freshmen. ITaP Research Computing senior scientific applications analyst Lev Gorenstein also mentored the team.

At the PEARC conference, ITaP Research Computing staff members presented papers on demystifying research computing for non-Linux users, the Campus Champions program, recent enhancements to the HUBzero platform and bringing data science to all undergraduates, which highlighted Purdue’s Integrative Data Science Initiative.

Preston Smith, ITaP director of research services and support, discussed solutions for finding and developing talent for research computing on the “Stop Chasing Unicorns in the Global Gig Economy” panel. Smith also presented a poster titled “Community Clusters or the Cloud: Continuing cost assessment of on-premises and cloud HPC in academia.” ITaP data scientist Geoff Lentner presented a poster “Shared Memory High-Throughput Computing with Apache Arrow.”

ITaP senior computational scientist Stephen Harrell organized the ACM SIGHPC SYSPROS Symposium 2019, a workshop that gives HPC systems administration professionals an opportunity to network and seek support on commonly faced issues.

Gladys Andino, an ITaP senior scientific applications analyst, and Marisa Brazil, program manager, led a session “What the Heck is a Microaggression?” about creating a more inclusive work environment. Andino and Brazil are the leaders of Purdue’s Women in HPC group, part of an ITaP initiative to encourage women in the Purdue community to pursue careers in fields related to high-performance computing. Brazil is on the steering committee for the 2020 PEARC conference.

Originally posted: August 19, 2019 10:04pm EDT