Greetings from Galway, Ireland: Cormac McKinstry

Hello and welcome! I’m Cormac McKinstry, and I am delighted to be part of PRACE’s Summer of HPC 2021.

How did I get here?

I’m coming to you from my family home in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland. While the opportunity to work in Nice is sorely missed, it hasn’t been a bad spot at all to sit out a pandemic. I recently graduated from by Bachelors in Theoretical Physics at Trinity College, Dublin. While physics may have been a major part of my degree, computer science and the limits of computing technology are something I’ve held an interest in for a long time, and I’ve recently been accepted to do a Masters in Quantum Science and Technology, focusing on Quantum Computing, starting this September back at Trinity in Dublin.

This isn’t my first experience working with High-Performance Computing. Last year, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with ICHEC, the Irish Centre for High End Computing. There I worked on simulations of Quantum Computing algorithms, learning how to program for quantum computers. I worked on simulations of quantum chemistry, using QC to calculate the energy levels of molecules. This got me started working with both Quantum Computing and HPC.

What am I doing here?

For the next couple months, I have the privilege of working with Daniel Pino Muños from Maison de la Simulation (MdlS) in Nice France. In collaboration with my partner Mukund, we will be developing a thermal model of Regolith in space. The interest in this is driven by the OSIRIS-REx space exploration mission, which you may have heard about when it traveled to the asteroid Bennu and landed in 2018. From it we learnt that the surface of Bennu is covered in a surface of loose, small, unconsolidated stones called regolith. The 2018 landing recovered a sample of the sample that will arrive on Earth in 2023.

Model of heat transfer in regolith

We want to understand the thermal properties of this regolith. To do this, we will be creating a parallel radiative heat exchange solver, simulating the thermodynamics of the regolith under various circumstances in order to understand what we’ll see from measurements. This is no easy task, but it’s one I’m excited to get going with.

Image Source: Ryan, Andrew & Pino, Daniel & Bernacki, Marc & Delbo, Marco. (2020). Full‐Field Modeling of Heat Transfer in Asteroid Regolith: Radiative Thermal Conductivity of Polydisperse Particulates. The Journal of Geophysical Research Planets. e2019JE006100. 10.1029/2019JE006100.

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