UCSD Supercomputing Center Aids in Drug Discovery

Jason Lopez Writer

Meet the team helping with drug discovery and research at the San Diego Supercomputing Center at UCSD.

When Professor Ross Walker explains what he does for a living, he says he’s on the cutting edge of drug discovery research using supercomputers. But when he explains why he does this work, he says it’s simple: he loves to build things.

As a kid in the UK, he built go-carts and fantasized about Formula One racing.

“My favorite car was the Williams FW14B,” he said. “The technology that went into it was incredible.”

Today, he and his team build supercomputer molecular biology software, thanks in part to a partnership with Intel’s Software Academic Program. The program provides tools and resources to help Walker’s molecular dynamics lab develop highly effective supercomputer simulations.

“Our research is focused on molecular dynamics simulations of biomolecules,” he explained. “I lead a very good team that works on developing the software.”

Perri Needham, a research scientist working in Walker’s lab, is also fired up about the work they are doing.

“My most recent projects have been about expressing the solvent constant pH,” she said. “And I’m excited about working with Intel Xeon Phi processors, that will mix things up when it comes to GPU acceleration.”

Needham came to San Diego for the job, but also in search of killer waves.

“Surfing and high performance computing may not seem like they have a lot to do with each other, but here we are at UC San Diego where we’re known for supercomputing and surfing,” she said. “It fits me perfectly.”

While Walker’s moved on from the days of engineering go-karts, his life in the lab is all about building the future.


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