PASC18 – Interdisciplinary Dialogue

The interdisciplinary dialogue is a novel plenary session that PASC18 introduces this year for the first time in the PASC Conference Series program. The aim is to provide a relaxed and engaging forum where the audience, representing various scientific disciplines, can gain insight into the research of a specific domain. To this end, the session takes the form of an “interview” between two prominent computational scientists from two different disciplines.

For the interdisciplinary dialogue at PASC18, Professor Petros Koumoutsakos, a computational science researcher from ETH Zurich, will interview Professor Constantia Alexandrou from the University of Cyprus about her domain of expertise – quantum chromodynamics. Many – if not most – fields in physics employ high performance computing (HPC), yet quantum chromodynamics (QCD) might be the premiere example of an area very difficult to understand outside of the field. In this dialogue, Constantia and Petros will look at what computational QCD achieves through the use of HPC, contextualizing it within a more general discussion of modern-day scientific computing. They will attempt to answer such questions as, “How do we ‘compute’ theory?” and “Will future computers change the way that theoretical physics ‘experiments’ are performed?”

Chromodynamics helps us understand our universe

The strong interaction is one of the four forces describing complex phenomena in the evolution of the universe from the quark gluon plasma formed just after the Big Bang at the birth of the cosmos to the formation of neutron stars. The bulk of visible matter in the universe is due to the strong interaction and understanding its properties requires the solution of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), a relativistic quantum gauge theory exhibiting confinement and asymptotic freedom properties that distinguish it from the other known theories. Solving QCD is carried out through large scale simulations using the largest supercomputers such as Piz Daint at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre and Titan at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Recent progress in algorithms and access to larger computers have led to deeper understanding of the strong interactions, such as resolving the thirty-year-old puzzle of the spin of the proton and providing input for probing dark matter in the universe.


Constantia Alexandrou is Professor of Physics at the University of Cyprus and Institute Professor at the Cyprus Institute. She holds a BA degree in Physics from Oxford University and a PhD in Theoretical Nuclear Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She held research positions in Germany and Switzerland before joining the University of Cyprus. Her field of research is the study of the strong interactions using large-scale simulations of quantum chromodynamics. She is the Director of the Computation-based Science and Technology Research Center of the Cyprus Institute and coordinator of two Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Joint Doctoral programs in Computational Science.

Petros Koumoutsakos
has received an education in Naval Architecture (NTUA Athens, University of Michigan), Aeronautics and Applied Mathematics (Caltech). He has conducted post-doctoral studies at the Center for Parallel Computing at Caltech and at the Center for Turbulent Research at Stanford University and NASA Ames. He was appointed as Chair for Computational Science at ETH Zurich in 2000. Petros is elected Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Physical Society (APS), the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and the Collegium Helveticum. He has held visiting fellow positions at Caltech, the University of Tokyo, MIT and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University. He is recipient of the Advanced Investigator Award by the European Research Council and led the team that won the ACM Gordon Bell prize in Supercomputing (2013). His team researches the how and what of computing as applied to problems ranging from fish swimming to nanotechnology and medicine.

Further information on this session is available here.