MSU and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Celebrate New Partnership, “Atlas” Supercomputer Housed in Starkville

Contact person: James Carskadon

MSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service celebrated the new “Atlas” supercomputer on Wednesday. [Sept. 30] with a virtual event. Pictured with MSU President Mark E. Keenum, seated, are from left, MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw, Acting Vice President for Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Reuben Moore, Director of High Performance Computing Trey Breckenridge and Acting Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan. USDA-ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young is pictured on screen. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—Building on decades of successful collaborations, Mississippi State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service on Wednesday celebrated the new “Atlas” supercomputer [Sept. 30] with a virtual event.

With funding from USDA-ARS, the state-of-the-art system was recently installed at MSU’s High Performance Computing Collaboratory. The system contains 23,040 logical cores with 101 terabytes of total RAM, powering research advances in bioinformatics, epidemiology, geospatial technology and more.

“All of us at Mississippi State are very proud of our long-standing partnership with ARS in Stoneville, as well as the ARS facilities and staff at our main campus in Starkville,” said said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “And now we’re thrilled to have the Atlas supercomputer and ARS scientists in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park – the state’s largest and most successful research park. The co-location of scientists from MSU and ARS creates a unique environment in which, together, we can solve complex problems in agriculture and food security.

ARS is the United States Department of Agriculture’s primary in-house scientific research agency, which finds solutions to agricultural problems that affect Americans every day, from field to table. ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young said the new partnership increases the computing capacity of SCINet, the organization’s platform for scientists to access clusters of high-performance computers.

“When we started thinking about how to expand SCINet, we knew Mississippi State University, with its impressive computing capabilities and vast experience in modeling and analysis, would be a great partner,” said Jacobs. -Young. “It was clear to us that we could once again align our research efforts with MSU and mutually expand our efforts and impact.”

MSU has always been a national leader in computing power and is currently home to the fourth most powerful university data center in the United States, Orion. In addition to USDA, MSU’s high-performance computing capabilities have led to critical partnerships and research opportunities with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; NASA; the National Science Foundation; the US Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Energy; among other state and federal agencies. The Mississippi Legislature in the 2020 session funded the construction of a new high-performance data center at Cochran Research Park, which will further enhance MSU’s capabilities and provide new economic opportunities for the state.

MSU is also a national leader in agricultural research, consistently ranking among the nation’s top 10 universities for agricultural and natural resource research funding. During his tenure as MSU president, Keenum, a former USDA undersecretary, made global food security a priority area for academic research efforts. USDA-ARS is a close research partner to the university, with ARS and MSU scientists working together to solve agricultural production problems and drive new innovations.

As the agricultural sector continues to implement technological advancements, high-performance computing capacity can help meet the demand for data analysis, creating more productive and efficient processes.

“There is limitless potential when you combine high-performance computing and world-class agricultural research and development,” said Julie Jordan, MSU’s acting vice president for research and economic development. “With our strengths in these areas, MSU is well positioned to stay at the forefront of exciting advances that will help feed our growing global population for decades to come. By working with partners like the USDA-ARS, we can continue to have a tremendous impact at the state, national, and global levels.

Mississippi State continues to build significant high-performance computing capabilities. In addition to facilities located at MSU, major computer systems are located at Stennis Space Center on the Gulf Coast and at the U.S. Army Engineers Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Mississippi’s supercomputing capacity currently ranks fifth in the nation.

To learn more about MSU’s High Performance Computing Collaboratory, visit www.hpc.msstate.edu.

MSU is the main university in Mississippi, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Lana T. Arthur