UCLA Plasma Simulation Group

The UCLA Plasma Simulation Group was founded when John Dawson moved to UCLA from Princeton in 1973. Through his multitude of good ideas, his mentorship of young researchers and students, and his guiding example of how research should be conducted, the group has made contributions that span all of plasma physics. The group is the birthplace for the fields of plasma-based acceleration, of parallel plasma computing, and the use of particle-based including particle-in-cell methods to study problems across plasma physics.

Since 1998, the Plasma Simulation Group has been led by Professor Warren B. Mori. The group continues to do pioneering work in high-performance computing of complex plasma phenomena. The group also currently includes Adjunct Professors Viktor Decyk and Phil Pritchett, four research physicists (Drs. Tsung, Tonge, Lu, and Tzoufras), one post-doctoral researcher, and six Ph.D. students.

Its research remains focused on the use of fully parallelized particle-based simulation models to study intense laser and beam plasma interactions, plasma-based acceleration, inertial confinement fusion including fast ignition, space plasmas, Alfvénic plasmas, and high-energy density science. The group specializes in particle-in-cell (PIC) techniques and continues to develop and maintain over five separate state-of-the-art PIC simulation codes, OSIRIS, PARSEC, Magtail, QuickPIC, and the UPIC Framework. These codes are used throughout the world and are run on as many as 300,000 processors on some of the world’s fastest computers.

The group recently received $1.78 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a cluster of 192 General Purpose Graphical Processing Units to compute at “Warp” speed. This new cluster is named DAWSON 2 in honor of the group’s founder. DAWSON 2 is dedicated for the study of particle-in-cell simulations of plasmas. The group is actively investigating new strategies for PIC codes to run on many new core architectures including clusters of GPUs.

The group is also a key part of a recently awarded new NSF Collaborative Research Grant on “Graduate Student Training Through Research on Plasma-Based Accelerators.” The group also received several Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) Awards that provide access to the largest computers managed by the Department of Energy (DOE). The Awards are in plasma-based acceleration and in fast ignition fusion. The group also continues to be affiliated with DOE Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) with a grant titled, “Community Petascale Project for Accelerator Science and Simulation” (COMPASS), as well as a DOE Fusion Science Center (FSC) grant on “Extreme states of matter and fast ignition physics.” The group is actively engaged in inventing new algorithms for studying plasma-based acceleration and extreme states of matter, as well as using its codes for scientific discovery in these subject areas.