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Hamilton, ON (Feb. 6, 2012) – Closing elementary and secondary schools can help slow the spread of infectious disease and should be considered as a control measure during pandemic outbreaks, according to a McMaster University led study.

Using high-quality data about the incidence of influenza infections in Alberta during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the researchers show that when schools closed for the summer, the transmission of infection from person to person was sharply reduced.

“Our study demonstrates that school-age children were important drivers of pH1N1 transmission in 2009,” says David Earn, lead author of the study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Earn is professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and member of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR).

Alberta was the only Canadian province to continue extensive virologic testing throughout the first wave and continuously to the middle of the second wave of the 2009 pandemic, allowing researchers to identify the causes of changes in incidence as the pandemic progressed.

“The data that we obtained were so good that our plots immediately revealed a huge drop in incidence when schools were closed for the summer,” says Earn. “Using state-of-the-art modeling, we then demonstrated that transmission was reduced by at least 50 per cent.”

The model also indicates that seasonal changes in weather significantly affected influenza transmission in cities in Alberta, but that they were much less important than school closures.

“Our study emphasizes the value of gathering data consistently throughout an outbreak,” says Earn. “For example, in Ontario they imposed testing restrictions on June 11, before schools had closed. We couldn’t possibly have done this analysis based on other parts of Canada.”

Earn and colleagues intend to continue to encourage policy makers to collect data through the course of an infectious disease outbreak. Only by swabbing large numbers of people throughout a pandemic, he says, the effects of various changes in behavior or control strategies are shown.

He adds that this article will help policy makers make the hard decision of whether or not to close schools during a pandemic outbreak.

“This strongly suggests that closing schools as a preventative measure is a strategy worth seriously thinking about. The next time a disease like SARS or the 1918 flu emerges, this paper will give policy makers more confidence that closing schools is likely to significantly reduce the rate of transmission.”

The study also involved McMaster investigators Jonathan Dushoff, associate professor of biology, and Mark Loeb, professor and division director of infectious diseases for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, who are also members of the IIDR.

The study received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. Computing resources for simulations were provided by Compute Canada’s SHARCNET.



WATERLOO, Ont. (Friday, Jan. 13, 2012) – A three-member international team of theoretical physicists, including a University of Waterloo professor, made a notable discovery about the unusual behaviour of electrons, with implications for all of physics. Their findings appear today in Science, one of the world’s pre-eminent journals for original, peer-reviewed scientific research.

This work is a significant step in allowing physicists the rare opportunity to study seemingly impossible fractional particles. The research team includes professor Roger G. Melko of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo, professor Matthew Hastings of the Department of Physics at Duke University in Durham, N.C. and also of Microsoft Research at the University of California, and lead author Sergei Isakov, a post-doctoral research associate with the Institut fur Theoretische Physik in Zurich, Switzerland. They used the computer power and capacity that Compute Canada’s Ontario-based supercomputing consortium SHARCNET provides to produce a simulation study that uncovered significant information about fractional particles when cooled to near absolute zero.

The researchers successfully created a simulated crystal of quantum material, which had just the right properties to be tuned to an unusual quantum state near absolute zero. When a particle with the fundamental electron charge was placed in that state, the team observed it fractionalize – or split itself – into two separate objects, each with a charge of half an electron. The researchers were then able to measure several values relating to the motion of the fractional particle. These numbers are universal, and so physicists can apply them across other areas of physics.

“What we have shown is not just that fractional particles can be created in a computer, but that they can affect universality at a phase transition. That means certainproperties transcend the specifics of the system, in our case the simulatedmaterial,” said Melko. “These properties will be present in other systems – physical, chemical, biological – that contain the same type of fractional particle. Thus, our work can be used to guide future studies looking for these odd half-electrons across a variety of disciplines.”

Rather than study high-energy systems, the team took advantage of the fact that low-temperature matter can come together to exhibit remarkable collective behaviour as quasiparticles. The motion of these cooperating particles, when viewed from a distance, is essentially indistinguishable from that of a regular, free particle. And, as they demonstrated in this paper, under just the right conditions, these quasiparticles can contain a fraction of the fundamental electron charge.

“The potential impact of our work is still unknown. The discovery of fractionalization in the quantum Hall effect revolutionized the way we think of matter. It won a Nobel Prize, and we are still building on this success,” said Melko. “Understanding these fractional particles could influence our understanding of superconductivity, help us build better electronics, and even play a part in the design of quantum computers in the future.”

The researchers’ article entitled “Universal Signatures of Fractionalized Quantum Critical Points” follows the team’s paper published last fall in the respected journal Nature Physics. That paper, which initially uncovered evidence for the existence of fractional particles in this low-temperature phase of matter was the result of months of collaboration and computer simulation work.



SHARCNET is pleased to announce the results of its Round III Dedicated Programming Support competition. See award details for more information.

Congratulations to all the awardees!



Beginning January 1, 2012 SHARCNET will no longer independently collect reporting information from our primary investigators, or require that SHARCNET accounts be renewed at the SHARCNET web portal. As of the new year this functionality will be provided by Compute Canada via the Compute Canada website. An email from Compute Canada will explain the new process in detail, however, it is quite similar to what SHARCNET has done in the past.

A major benefit of this transition is that primary investigators who use multiple Compute Canada facilities will no longer have to actively maintain multiple account profiles and respond to multiple reporting requests, as well as manage sponsored account renewals at each facility.

Should you have any questions or concerns about this transition please contact the appropriate support channel:

SHARCNET: help@sharcnet.ca
Compute Canada: accounts@computecanada.org



November marked the start of a series of celebrations to commemorate SHARCNET’s 10-year anniversary. A number of local events were organized by the Site Leaders, which included open houses, receptions, and sponsored talks. The premier event was a luncheon reception on December 3rd hosted by the University of Guelph, where members of the SHARCNET research community joined the Board, the Strategic Council, industrial partners, and the SHARCNET team to help us celebrate this important milestone.



Principal Investigators (PIs) at Canadian academic institutions who require access to High Performance Computing (HPC) resources on Compute Canada systems are hereby invited to submit proposals requesting allocations of CPU time and storage to Compute Canada (https://computecanada.org). In addition to offering access to computing resources with an aggregate peak of well over 1 PetaFlops of compute power and more than 5 Petabytes of storage, Compute Canada offers applications-enabling assistance from HPC experts at the regional consortia.

Allocations will be valid for one year, beginning January 2012. Under exceptional circumstances and for long term national and international projects an extended timeframe may be granted. Allocations of longer than one year will be subject to NRAC (National Resource Allocation Committee) approval and will require the submission of an annual progress report.

The deadline for submitting applications is October 18, 2011 at 3pm EDT.



SHARCNET has issued a call for Letters of Intent for Round III of SHARCNET’s Research Support Programmes: Dedicated Programming Support. The deadline for Round III LOI’s is September 30, 2011, and selected applications will be invited to submit a full proposal by November 30, 2011.

Please refer to the application guidelines for more information about this programme.



OTTAWA, Ontario, June 16, 2011 – Compute Canada, the organization leading the creation of a powerful national High Performance Computing platform for academia and scientific research in Canada today announced it will partner with Super Micro Computer, Inc. to build a high-performance computing platform for its HPC for the Humanities initiative.

HPC for the Humanities is part of a distributed network of high-performance computers sharing data resources and tools among academic researchers throughout Canada. This initiative will enable humanities researchers to take advantage of the enormous potential of high performance computing to deal with large and complex sets of unstructured data in the form of books, election and financial data, archaeological information and newspapers. Researchers will be able to sort, mine, and visualize data and to ask new questions about events, the development of civilization, as well as written, audio and video materials. Supermicro’s 8-Way architecture, GPU support, mass-storage capacity and high-throughput I/O capabilities provide an excellent foundation for high computational performance and scalability.

“High performance computing in the social sciences and humanities is central to advancing creativity and innovation,” stated Chad Gaffield, President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. “This initiative will help to support our scholars and their partners in advancing knowledge on a wide array of topics that are central to our economy and quality of life.”

“We qualified Supermicro based on their product performance/price, service quality, green power efficiency, and company history,” said Susan Baldwin, Executive Director of Compute Canada. “Supermicro’s culture of innovation and integration expertise aligns well with our charter to foster a new era in HPC evolution and to continue to provide the HPC resources needed for world-leading research. As part of Supermicro’s integrated solution we would also like to acknowledge Intel, Samsung, Toshiba and LSI for contributing to this project as well.”

Researchers will have the advantage of an HPC system based on Supermicro’s 8-Way, 5U SuperServer® (5086B-TRF) which supports 80 Cores with 8x Intel® Xeon® processor E7-8800 (10-Core) and integrates up to 2TB of Samsung DDR3 ECC reg. DIMMs. The system also includes 4.8TB of Toshiba/LSI RAID storage and expandability for up to 4 GPUs. This is an enterprise-class platform designed for mission-critical applications and high-availability.

“Developing new understanding of the human system will require the ability to efficiently analyze massive amounts of data to reach new insights,” said Raj Hazra, General Manager of High Performance Computing at Intel. “The Xeon processor E7-8800 is one of our most advanced technologies today for this kind of problem. We are excited to participate in this initiative.”

“Supermicro’s HPC SuperServers have a wide range of applications in the fields of academia and research,” said Dr. Tau Leng, GM of HPC Solutions at Super Micro Computer, Inc. “HPC for the Humanities will achieve new levels of collaboration using our high-density, scalable HPC solutions. We look forward to advancing this and future HPC initiatives with Compute Canada.”

The Supermicro equipment will be housed at SHARCNET.