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Victoria’s Largest Supercomputer Propels Local Research

Victoria’s largest supercomputer has been unveiled at the Swinburne University of Technology, putting the state at the forefront of space technology, medicine, and environmental research. The Minister for Higher Education, Gayle Tierney, announced the $18.5 million supercomputer at the Hawthorn campus would be named by Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Traditional Owners in acknowledgement of local Aboriginal knowledge of astrophysical phenomena. In partnership with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Swinburne’s supercomputer will also develop new educational partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and communities in Victoria and beyond.

According to reports, the supercomputer has the capacity to analyse and process data a million times faster than standard computers and uses information generated from space- and earth-facing satellites. It allows astronomers to monitor space in unprecedented detail and will also assist researchers in areas including bushfire detection, natural disaster planning and response, neuroscience, cancer detection, and defence.

The technology builds on Swinburne University’s research reputation and enhances its existing supercomputer, OzSTAR, which was installed in 2017 and is one of Australia’s fastest computers. It has been used for astronomy, oceanography, agriculture, medicine, molecular dynamics, and quantum chemistry. OzSTAR has been a de facto national facility for astrophysics computation in Australia through AAL support, helping define the nature of black holes through gravitational waves.

The new supercomputer project will create 65 jobs across data, research, and software and 20 PhD positions. There will also be opportunities for 250 students from primary to university level through STEM outreach programmes as well as partnership opportunities with industry and start-ups, the report added. By bringing researchers and industry together with cutting-edge technology, the supercomputer will support new discoveries and ways of thinking that can help create a better world, an official noted.

Some of the key projects the supercomputer will enable include supporting the development of new space technologies and improving understanding of gravitational waves, black holes, and galaxy formation. It will also aid in research about how the brain operates through analyses of brain data by neuroscientists and neuroimaging experts. The Victoria University (VU) and Federation University Australia (FUA) are also collaborating on the project, undertaking research in emerging industry-aligned areas such as advanced manufacturing, big data analysis, and data security.

A representative stated that the supercomputer will provide more study and job opportunities in Hawthorn and around Australia as a key tool for some of the nation’s most important research projects. The Labor Government has invested $5.2 million alongside funding from the Commonwealth Government, Swinburne University, and its partners. It was one of several pitches from universities to the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, which was developed in response to the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector. The unprecedented $350 million Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund is supporting universities with capital works, research infrastructure projects, and applied research focused on boosting Victoria’s productivity and the economy as the state recovers from the pandemic.

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