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Where Do We Train Super Computer Competent Staff for Innovative Russia?

Computers have long been a part of our life; however, supercomputers have been less heard of until recently. Just a few years back a project in supercomputer education was launched in Russia, and many people in this country learned about this miracle-working computers and their tremendous capabilities. Supercomputers are computational machines that in many ways exceed the capabilities of all current electronic equipment – from laptops to large tabletop computers. These computers have been successfully used to solve complex computing problems in many areas of science, such as molecular chemistry, quantum and nuclear physics, meteorology, pharmaceutics, oil recovery, cryptography and many others.

The first step taken toward the development of supercomputer technologies was the creation in 2008 of the Supercomputer Consortium of Russian Universities, consisting of four major Russian universities – Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), Lobachevsky Nizhny Novgorod State University (NNSU), Tomsk State University (TSU), and Southern Urals State University (SUSU). Joining their efforts together, these institutions started working on developing and effectively using supercomputer technologies in education, science and business. Today permanent and associated members of the Consortium represent more than 50 Russian universities and public organizations.

Over the past several years dozens of powerful supercomputers were built in Russia to assist in solving a variety of problems, from forecasting climate change to creating new medicines and treatment methods. One of these supercomputers, The Lomonosov, is one of top twenty fastest supercomputers in the world. However, operating these highly productive machinery requires high qualifications, of which we still have very few. To help create professionals in this area, the Presidential Commission for Modernization and Economic Development started the Supercomputer Education program implemented in 2010-2012 by Lomonosov Moscow State University, other major Russian universities and members of the Supercomputer Consortium. The goal of the project is to create a stable system for training staff for top priority sectors of Russian economy.

The project focuses on creation of Supercomputer Technology Science and Education Centers (SCT SECs), which will coordinate university activities in the sphere of pre-service and in-service training in this area. In addition to providing pre-service and in-service training, the state resource centers will work on developing instructional and methodological materials, books and textbooks, facilitate interaction between educational, science and business establishments in the sphere of supercomputer technology. Over the first two years of the project pilot SCTs were created in seven Russian regions: SCT Center, SCT Southern Urals, SCT Volga, SCT North-West, SCT Siberia, SCT Far East, and SCT South.

As soon as Science and Education Centers opened, their staff began work on the list of professional competencies used in updated federal state education standards in Fundamental Information Science and Information Technology, Applied Mathematics and Information Science and Mathematics so that instructional programs focused on in-depth studies of supercomputer technologies. These standards were used to prepare new instructional and methodological materials and programs as part of the project.

In 2010-2011 SCTs designed a total of 50 courses for pre-service and in-service training of more than 200 instructors from 40 Russian universities. A large-scale training program was implemented in 2011, and more than 1,500 graduates received basic proficiency certificates that allowed them to begin using supercomputers. Particular attention has been paid to in-depth study of various courses in the field of supercomputer technologies. As a result, more than 550 people completed intensive training in 23 groups on 14 education programs. SCTs cooperate actively with foreign universities and scientific communities. In 2010-2011 several joint programs were introduced and more than 50 partnership agreements were settled. A total of some 30 international experts were hired by SCTs to provide high-quality instruction. For example, in 2010 several Russian universities welcomed Thomas Sterling, renowned American expert on supercomputer architecture.

Supercomputer technologies today have considerable importance for Russia and this direction is one of top priority directions in the modernization program. Creation of science and education centers and effective use of all accumulated knowledge will help to solve many complicated problems and allow Russia to compete on the international arena with the most powerful countries of the world.