Oral Roberts University is home to a new supercomputer of huge proportions. The machine, named Titan, is providing ORU students across numerous fields of study the opportunity to collaborate on projects with the aid of its speedy processing power. The $850,000 computer has a myriad of applications, including weather forecasting and bioinformatic analysis, and Titan contains more than 1,300 high-performance computing cores and has the capacity of 45 teraflops, allowing it to perform 45 trillion calculations per second. The machine requires an air-conditioning function because it can heat the room in which it’s housed by 10 degrees in a matter of minutes.
Dr. Stephen Wheat, professor of computer science at ORU has been awarded for his exemplary work in bringing Titan to Oral Roberts University. An ORU alum, Dr. Wheat is a highly experienced thinker who spent decades working in high-performance computing in just about every sphere imaginable around the world, from industry to academia to government consultations in the Departments of Defense and Energy. He joined the ORU faculty in January of 2018. Dr. Wheat says, “I’ve been involved in high-performance computing or supercomputing, first in the oil domain and then in the area of telephony and eventually into U.S. defense in the area of underwater warfare. From there I supported the Department of Energy with the nuclear weapons program before going to the national laboratory until I left the lab environment to spend 20 years at Intel, where I focused mostly on high-performance computing, rising in the ranks to become General Manager of the business unit. I left Intel and went to HP and continued to work more directly with the end-user for several years, then felt called to retire from that industry after 40 years.
“I’ve had the opportunities to work with every major national lab in the United States as well as internationally, worked with major universities and institutions in Germany, Norway, Italy, India, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand. It’s been a worldwide experience working with users to solve complex problems.” Dr. Wheat adds, “Being at ORU allows me to speak to what it looks like to be a light in a dark place. To be missionaries to the work force. That’s what I’d been doing for so long, in conversations with colleagues. Now I can help raise up the next generation of people like me, technical computer leaders who will be able to carry the power of God into their careers and environments.” He played a significant role in bringing Titan to ORU’s campus, the only Christian university in the country to host such a machine.
Birth of ‘Titan’
Today’s grand challenge problems require much more power than what a single machine can provide, such as the folding of a protein or modeling the crash of a car. Industry is transforming from a model of only physical prototyping to a model that embraces virtual prototyping, so this gives students the opportunity to use tools that need to be far more powerful than a single computer, putting the computational power of a thousand laptops to work one problem. According to Dr. Wheat, “There’s a whole side of computing where we can have a direct influence on the quality of life around the world. We can contribute to clean water, sustainability, clean energy, national security, and so on. The kinds of things through computational science we can do are huge, so I love having the opportunity to infuse that into future employees, researchers, and leaders.”
" Now I can help raise up the next generation of people like me, technical computer leaders who will be able to carry the power of God into their careers and environments "
Dr. Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, Chief Academic Officer of ORU inspired Dr. Wheat and his team to incorporate a supercomputer for the benefit of the University and its students. Dr. Reid-Martinez says, “We are all moving forward at a fast pace, and to just ‘do technology’ is the wrong approach. We have to creatively find ways to leverage technology that creates less confusion, ease of use, and makes studies more gratifying. We imagine 90% of the world obtaining some form of education, knowledge, or intelligence as we integrate all technologies to deliver and assess hundreds of modalities of education.”
ORU’s High Performance Computing Center provides resources to students and faculty and enables them to use high performance computing in their research and educational activities. Titan can be used for several departments in several different colleges, from modeling physical phenomena for chemistry, biology, or mechanical engineering to gene sequencing or gene alignment or material science in researching new materials. They can do radio wave propagation and wi-fi simulation, which is of interest to the College of Theology, or deep learning applications for enhanced business analytics Now I can help raise up the next generation of people like me, technical computer leaders who will be able to carry the power of God into their careers and environments MARCH 2020 7 for the College of Business. It can also benefit the behavioral sciences department by studying the causes of addiction or other departments through study and development of artificial intelligence.
ORU is also providing access to Titan to research teams from the University of Tulsa, each doing PhD and Master’s level research. One team using VASP, which models atomic-scale materials, another using Titan for seismic processing research. The VASP project is expected to lead to new fundamental knowledge, while the computational paradigm developed during it is expected to be applicable in any fields in which quantum effects are concerned. It will also impact industrial and engineering developments of new materials for applications in such fields as microelectronics, biofuels, and nanophotonics. The seismic processing research will rapidly increase the accurate and reliable imaging of geological structures to aid in analyzing geological formations, enabling technicians to successfully determine oil/gas distribution, while also enabling graduate-level courses at both universities. “Tulsa is the capital of the Process Equipment and Heat Exchanger industries. Since many companies deal with details of multiphase flow through equipment, pipes, and pipe fittings such as control and safety valves, those companies can collaborate with researchers from both ORU and TU to optimize solutions, giving students valuable real-world opportunities to apply their research,” adds Dr. Wheat.
Innovating the Future
Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Oral Roberts University professor Dr. Wheat, in collaboration with colleagues from Cameron University and East Central University, a $500,000 Campus Cyberinfrastructure Grant. The half-million dollars will connect the universities to the OneOklahoma Friction Free Network and allow ORU to increase its network speed, making it 100 times faster. “This grant will allow ORU researchers access to high speed and highly reliable data, connecting to both regional and international data repositories,” states Dr. Wheat. “The increased speed will enhance the vitality of Titan and prepare the University for future expansion.” Dr. Wheat was also instrumental in bringing it to the University. Titan can perform a variety of research projects with its more than 1300 physical, high-performance computing cores, and can perform 45 trillion calculations per second.
nd. “This award brings ORU to the forefront of highperformance computing-related research in the Tulsa community and places our computer science program firmly on the map,” states Dr. Andrew Lang, Chair of the Computing and Mathematics Department. The Department recently announced the formation of the Computing and Mathematics Advisory Council. Since the Council is made up of alumni and friends of the ORU Computing and Mathematics program, its members are able to speak to the realities of the various industries,which students will join upon graduation, providing important and timely information regarding relevant required knowledge, needed skills, and trends in technology industries. Additionally, the council provides advice and counsel to the faculty and department chair on important issues related to the program, to students, and to the department itself. Finally, because many of the Council members are distinguished in their fields, their participation extends the reach and influence of the department—and thus its graduates—to the larger computing and mathematics community.
For the days to come, Dr. Wheat and his team will continue working on enhancing the supercomputer, adding larger functionalities for the benefit of the students. The innovative leader reminds students of the impact they can have as next-gen leaders: “It is important to be content but never comfortable. Our field of study is based on putting knowable facts to use in infinite ways with infinite possibilities for innovation. In some ways, mathematics is the same as it was centuries ago; in others it’s been pushed farther today than it ever has before, and will be pushed even farther tomorrow. There will never be a time to stop imagining, stop creating, stop innovating. Our world needs your knowledge and skill, so never stop learning and never give up!”
Dr. Kathaleen Reid-Martinez, Chief Academic Officer
Our graduates can proudly showcase their diplomas and write Oral Roberts University on their résumé.