Bryan Johnston works as a principal technician for the School of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa. He supports the academic and research missions of the school as a systems administrator and research computing support specialist primarily for the astrophysics, cosmology and computer science departments.
As the only technical support staff at UKZN with any formal exposure to HPC, Bryan is dedicated to developing the high-tech workforce on the UKZN campus and throughout the vast province of KwaZulu-Natal. With faculty from the School of Engineering, he formed an HPC mentoring group that trains undergraduate students using the donated Ranger equipment as a training sandbox. Additionally, they have a 1,000-core 50 node HP Gen8 HPC, a 32-core (quad E5-4650 Dell PowerEdge R820) SMP, a 15-node ROCKS cluster, and a GPU workstation. The mentoring group trained the first two UKZN teams that advanced to the national finals of the South African Student Cluster Competition (SCC), and the winning CHPC SCC team won the International Student Cluster Challenge in 2013 and 2014!
UKZN systems support research related to the multi-billion dollar Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, including HIRAX, an independent $5.5m 1,000-dish radio telescope to be built at the SKA site. Other research supported by their systems relates to C-BASS (astrophysics), machine-learning, hyper-heuristics, genetic programming, image processing, and data mining.
As the principal technician, Bryan is responsible for specifying, configuring and administering the computing systems required by the researchers. He advises the community about which system to use for specific projects, how best to optimize each resource, and on HPC technologies and parallel programming principles, in general.