Founders of Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center honored by city, county and state

March 13, 2018
Mike Levine, left, and Ralph Roskies, founders of the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, stand in front of one of the center's early supercomputers.

An idea hatched 32 years ago by two physicists from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh has grown into a supercomputing powerhouse that is home to some of the fastest and largest computers in the world and powering cutting-edge research.

Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies, who founded the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center in 1986, were honored Friday by the city and Allegheny County.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declared Feb. 16, 2018, as Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies Day in the county and city. Levine and Roskies retired from the supercomputing center last year.

“Today, PSC is bringing about a new generation of research in artificial intelligence, life sciences, social sciences and digital humanities through its increasing focus on Big Data analytics,” the county proclamation read.

The city’s proclamation said the center “has established a tradition of using the latest information technologies for the advancement of research, education and corporate competitiveness in the region and the state.”

The state Senate and House recognized Levine and Roskies with proclamations on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

The supercomputing center has generated 1,600 jobs and more than $200 million in economic activity each year. It has brought in more than $500 million in outside funding and supports research at CMU, Pitt and universities around the country. Last year, Bridges, the center’s latest supercomputer, powered an artificial intelligence to beat some of the best poker players in the world. Space on Bridges is open to research scientists studying biology, geology, archeology, economics and other social sciences who encounter enormous amounts of data but don’t typically have the access or the know-how to analyze and process that data on a supercomputer.

Levine and Roskies started the center when the two needed bigger and better computers for their work in quantum dynamics. The pair teamed up the James Kasdorf of Westinghouse to build the center.

“What Mike and Ralph created in PSC has stood the test of time, providing lasting value to the national science community,” Nick Nystrom, the center’s interim director, said in a statement. “Their vision led to a wealth of discoveries that expanded human knowledge and improved the way we live and work.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.