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Behind the Scenes of CoE RAISE: An interview with Marcel Aach, PhD Student at Forschungszentrum Jülich and the University of Iceland




Is there an event or person that brought you to science?

I have always been very curious and interested in how things work. As a child, my parents supported my curiosity by buying me experiment kits from different scientific disciplines and letting me tinker around with their technical devices. In school, I became interested in mathematics and computer science and pursued these subjects at university. So, it was not a single event or person that brought me to science but more of a continuousprocess. I especially like mathematics because I see it as the core of all sciences, but now for my Ph.D., I am very excited to work in computer science.


Figure 1: In front of the JUWELS supercomputer at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (Copyright: Jülich Supercomputing Centre)

In which field did you focus and what is special about it?

In general, my focus lies in artificial intelligence and machine learning. These fields have had a huge impact on all other areas of science as well and made great achievements possible. More specifically, I work on training deep neural networks on the supercomputers that we have access to, e.g., the JUWELS Booster in Juelich or the MareNostrum in Barcelona. This is necessary because the machine learning models, as well as the data used to train these models, get larger and larger. With a normal computer, it would take months or in some cases even years to train such large models, so we need HPC. Here, a lot of challenges must still be resolved, e.g., the prediction accuracy of deep neural networks usually suffers when trained on these supercomputers.

Is CoE RAISE the first EU project you are participating in and in which tasks are you involved in?

RAISE is the first EU project I am working on. I am involved in the tasks that deal with the prediction of turbulent flows, improving seismic imaging with the help of satellite data, and sound engineering.


Figure 2: In the foyer of the supercomputer hall. (Copyright: Jülich Supercomputing Centre)

What is your impression so far and what are your expectations?

The tasks are very diverse and there are a lot of different things to do, which makes day-to-day work very interesting. All my colleagues are all very friendly and supportive. I am confident that all tasks will leverage the power of  Artificial Intelligence on Exascale systems.

How do you like to spend your free time?

In my free time, I like to meet with friends, watch TV series or play tennis. I also have a motorcycle that I ride quite often. During longer holiday periods, I enjoy traveling and exploring different countries.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

This month we had a fantastic retreat in Iceland with several other Ph.D. students from the University of Iceland and the RAISE project. We stayed at cottages along the route of the “Golden Circle” in the south of Iceland. During the day, we gave presentations on our work and discussed the challenges we are facing, while after dinner we explored Iceland’s nature (stunning waterfalls!) or relaxed in the hot tubs. It was truly fantastic to meet colleagues in-person for the first time after one and a half years, and this was one of my best experiences in this project. I look forward to many more!


Figure 3: Group photo of the retreat event (Copyright: Marcel Aach)


Figure 4: Waterfalls (Copyright: Marcel Aach)

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