Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
June 9, 1994                                      Michael Schneider
                                                  Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Breakthrough Award Honors Heart Modeling by NYU Scientists at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

PITTSBURGH -- The 1994 Computerworld Smithsonian Award (CWSA) for Breakthrough Computational Science went to Charles Peskin and David McQueen, scientists at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. The award recognizes them for developing a three-dimensional computational model of blood flow in the heart, its nearby valves and major vessels.

The modeling technique they pioneered -- called the "immersed boundary method" -- has had broad influence in other biological and anatomical fluid-flow modeling. Peskin and McQueen have done much of their modeling at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, using the CRAY Y-MP and, since early 1993, the CRAY C90.

An earlier, two-dimensional version of their computational model led to an improved design for a prosthetic mitral valve, the valve that controls blood flow between the left atrium and left ventricle. Much like a wind tunnel, the three-dimensional model acts as a test chamber for assessing normal and diseased heart function. It will make it possible to address many questions that are difficult or impossible to address in animal research and clinical studies.

The immersed boundary method is an innovative approach to deal with the problem of modeling fluid flows interacting with a flexible, elastic boundary such as the muscle fibers of the heart. Because this is a "coupled system" -- the elastic boundary moves the fluid at the same time as the fluid pushes back against it -- the standard techniques of computational fluid dynamics are inadequate. Through workshops at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and through scientific literature, the immersed boundary method has become a prevalent tool in computational research and has been applied to modeling fluids in the inner ear, clotting in blood vessels and how fish swim.

Established in 1989, the CWSA program was created as a computer-industry wide program to search out and publicly honor mean and women using information technology to foster more humane, healthy and cooperative living. In celebrating these achievements, the program aims to help demystify technology and empower people to use it as a tool for positive change.

The Breakthrough Computational Science award is sponsored by Cray Research, Inc. It is presented annually to an individual or team that has best used supercomputer-level computational science to: significantly increase the possibilities for improvement in the human condition; solve, or make notable progress on, a previously intractable problem; set new, replicative standards for scientific endeavor; and create new technological tools with which to effect change.

The award was presented on Monday, June 6, at an awards dinner in the National Building Museum, Washington, DC.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, was established in 1986 by a grant from the National Science Foundation with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to develop and make available state-of-the-art high-performance computing for scientific researchers nationwide.

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Related article, with graphics, from Projects in Scientific Computing, PSC research report.

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