News Archive (Pre-2021)

News Archive (Pre-2021)

December 2020

DiRAC Health Data Science and AI Placement Opportunity.

DiRAC will award one Innovation Placement in 2021 in the area of Health Data Science and the application of AI. The nominal length is 6 months and has to be completed by 30 September 2021. In this scheme a final year PhD student or an early career researcher can have a funded placement (up to £25k) with the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme. GIRFT is funded by the UK Department of Health and Social Care and is a collaboration between NHS England & NHS Improvement and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust. GIRFT uses comprehensive benchmarking data analysis to identify unwarranted variation in healthcare provision and outcomes in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in England and combine this with deep dive visits to the hospital by clinicians with follow up on agreed actions by an improvement team. The programme covers the majority of healthcare specialities.

To qualify you have to be working on research that falls within the STFC remit in order to qualify for the placement; however you can be funded by other organisations besides STFC, as long as the subject area is identifiable as being in the Particle Physics, Astronomy & Cosmology, Solar Physics and Planetary Science, Astro-particle Physics, and Nuclear Physics.

To check your eligibility please contact Jeremy Yates and Maria Marcha.

This should be looked on as an opportunity to learn new skills and contribute outside of your research area.

The deadline for applications is 10am on Monday 11th January 2021.

Further information can be found in this document.

December 2020:

Unlocking the mystery of the Moon’s formation

Astronomers have taken a step towards understanding how the Moon might have formed out of a giant collision between the early Earth and another massive object 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists led by Durham University UK, used DiRAC supercomputer to simulate Mars-sized planet – called Theia – crashing into the early Earth.

Lead author Sergio Ruiz-Bonilla, a PhD researcher in Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said: “By adding different amounts of spin to Theia in simulations, or by having no spin at all, it gives you a whole range of different outcomes for what might have happened”

November 2020:

2021 Code Performance Series: From analysis to insight

Starting in January, Durham University is hosting a 7-monthly series of  workshops based around performance analysis for Exascale software. This could be of interest for anyone working on HPC codes, aiming to upskill researchers in this key area.

To register, please visit this link:

This workshop series is run by the Durham University’s Department of Computer Science in collaboration with the N8 and DiRAC, in close collaboration with the VI-HPS, and made possible by support from the UK’s ExCALIBUR programme.

October 2020:

Professor Carlos S Frenk
Institute of Computational Cosmology, Durham University, & DiRAC

We would like to congratulate Carlos on being awarded the Institute of Physics 2020 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for theoretical (including mathematical and computational) physics.  

For outstanding contributions to establishing the current standard model for the formation of all cosmic structure, and for leading computational cosmology within the UK for more than three decades.

The full citation is at

Modelling temperature variation on distant stars

A team led by Dr Andrei Igoshev at the University of Leeds is helping to explain one of the big questions that has perplexed astrophysicists for the past 30 years – what causes the changing brightness of distant stars called magnetars.

 A mathematical model was developed that simulates the way the magnetic field disrupts the conventional understanding of heat being distributed uniformly which results in hotter and cooler regions where there may be a difference in temperature of one million degrees Celsius.

The team used the STFC-funded DiRAC supercomputing facilities at the University of Leicester. 

Read more about it here.

September 2020:

The Earth could have lost anywhere between 10 and 60% of its atmosphere in the collision that is thought to have formed the Moon!

New research led by astronomers at Durham University shows how the extent of atmospheric loss depends upon the type of giant impact with Earth.

They ran more than 300 supercomputer simulations to study the consequences of different huge collisions on rocky planets with thin atmospheres.

Real all about it here and here.

September 2020:

DiRAC contributes to a new Calculation that Refines Comparison of Matter with Antimatter

A new calculation performed using the world’s fastest supercomputers allows scientists to more accurately predict the likelihood of two kaon decay pathways, and compare those predictions with experimental measurements. The comparison tests for tiny differences between matter and antimatter that could, with even more computing power and other refinements, point to physics phenomena not explained by the Standard Model.

Read all about it in their press release.

September 2020:

DiRAC Day – Poster Prize Winners: 

After a very enjoyable day being informed of all the first class research DiRAC has supported over the past year, and the exciting plans we have for the years to come. Ending with this year’s poster prize winners, sponsored by Intel.

  • Fionntan Callan from Queen’s University Belfast
  • Rosie Talbot from Cambridge University
  • runner up Josh Borrow from Durham University 

Well done everyone the standards were extremely high this year.

Zooming in on dark matter

Our cosmologists have zoomed in on the smallest clumps of dark matter in a virtual universe – which could help us find the real thing in space.

Using a supercomputer simulation of the universe they achieved a zoom equivalent to being able to see a flea on the surface of the Moon.

This meant they could make detailed pictures and analyses of hundreds of virtual dark matter haloes from the very largest (galaxy clusters) to the tiniest (about the same as Earth’s mass).

Read all about it on their website.

August 2020:

Intel has agreed to sponsor the pre-DiRAC Day hackathon. The event will focus on optimisation with the latest Intel tool set, and looking at a new coding model oneAPI. OneAPI will deliver the tools needed to deploy applications and solutions across different architectures, including CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, and other accelerators.

Application deadline has been extended to Tuesday the 25th August.

For information see post

Swiftsimio, a Python library for reading SWIFT data developed with support of DiRAC Research Software Engineering time, published in the Journal of Open Source Software.

Read the article here.

July 2020:

Charming physics in a beautiful context.

June 2020:

Spectra publishes a case study on their long-term storage solution for the DiRAC Memory Intensive Services at Durham.

Read all about it on their website.

May 2020:

New simulations from Imperial College London have revealed the asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs struck Earth at the ‘deadliest possible’ angle.

The simulations show that the asteroid hit Earth at an angle of about 60 degrees, which maximised the amount of climate-changing gases thrust into the upper atmosphere.

Such a strike likely unleashed billions of tonnes of sulphur, blocking the sun and triggering the nuclear winter that killed the dinosaurs and 75 per cent of life on Earth 66 million years ago.

Read all about it on their website, learn more about DiRAC’s contribution in the STFC article, and see the impact on YouTube.

See also the BBC online, Daily Mail, and New Scientist articles.

May 2020:

13th Call for Proposals Pre-announcement

The DiRAC Resource Allocation Committee 13th Call for Proposals will be opening shortly. Find all information and important dates here.

April 2020:

Webinar: Porting and Performance of DiRAC benchmarks on Oracle Bare Metal Cloud

On Wednesday April 29th, from 11.00 to 12.00 am (BST), Any Turner will give a webinar on Porting and Performance of DiRAC benchmarks on Oracle bare metal cloud.

Find more information here.

February 2020:

Government announces new supercomputer for N8 universities

Based at the University of Durham, the new £3.15m Northern Intensive Computing Environment (NICE) will provide a shared facility for academic and industry researchers for all of the N8 universities, shared on an equal basis with each paying towards its operation, while also allowing access to the EPSRC-supported UK-wide community. The announcement is one of seven HPC centres to be supported by a £27 million investment from EPSRC.

Find more information here.

Advance Announcement: September 2020:

DiRAC Day 2020 @ Durham University

This year, the Annual DiRAC Science Day event, will be held at Durham University on the 10th of September. The day provides an opportunity to meet researchers from across the DiRAC community and learn about their recent science achievements. In addition, our industry partners will be these to talk about new hardware and software advances which may benefit DiRAC research.

Full details regarding registration, accommodation etc will be available via the DiRAC website shortly.

We also expect to host a hackathon over the three days leading up to DiRAC day – details will announced soon and will be posted on our Training page.

January 2020:

CodeCamp is back in March!

Interested in knowing if your research will benefit from the power of GPUs? Haven’t done any GPU programming?, or do not know what a GPU is?, then CodeCamp is for you. Come along to Durham on 17th March.

Go to our web page or for details, all are welcome, but spaces are limited.

Application dead line has been extended to the 2nd of March.

UCLan astronomers find a way to form ‘fast and furious’ planets around tiny stars!

Using DiRAC resources, researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) found giant planets could form around small stars much faster than previously thought.


As published in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Journal, Dr Anthony Mercer and Dr Dimitris Stamatellos’ new planet formation research challenges our understanding of planet formation.

Computer simulation of planets forming in a protoplanetary disc around a red dwarf star.

Find out more at the UCLan website, or the STFC website.