The Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing successfully pursues its vision to develop novel and innovative mathematical and computer science methods enabling computational solutions in natural and social sciences, engineering, medicine and humanities. By implementing scientific computing in different application areas, IWR naturally enhances cross-disciplinarity. Having demonstrated this transfer in many projects, IWR was promoted as methodological research incubator within the Excellence Strategy of 2019 “A Comprehensive Research University” of Heidelberg University. It is, henceforth, the mission of IWR to contribute with scientific computing in research and education locally, regionally, and internationally, but also to establish an interdisciplinary research environment and, in particular, to support scientists and scholars of Heidelberg University in their software development process as well as in techniques of computational sciences.
A Brief Historical Overview
IWR was founded 34 years ago as a cross-faculty center to promote research in the highly interdisciplinary field of scientific computing by both the state of Baden-Württemberg and Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. IWR played an active role in the promotion of scientific computing into one of the key technologies of the 21st century; and it is nowadays considered an integral part of scientific research, bridging and complementing theory and experiment. In particular, being placed between theory and application, scientific computing is hence by definition an interdisciplinary research area, requiring both expertise in the areas of mathematics and computer science as well as in the field of application.
This interdisciplinarity was realized right from the beginning when scientists from mathematics, physics and chemistry, became the first members of IWR. These scientists, at the same time, remained members of their home faculties, ensuring from the very beginning a disciplinary excellence in combination with an interdisciplinary spirit. This organizational structure has proven to be very successful over the years, and since then IWR has developed into a university-wide interdisciplinary center with more than fifty members from ten faculties.
At IWR, scientific computing encompasses the more traditional field of modeling, simulation & optimization together with upcoming machine learning & data science. Scientific computing is hereby understood as both development of mathematical methods and efficient software in order to tackle challenging computational problems using high-performance computers. This clearly distinguishes the research at IWR from purely computational science, which refers more to the application of existing computer programs to scientific questions. In other words, the research at IWR drives computational sciences and is itself driven and inspired by the needs for new, efficient algorithms of its computational and experimental scientists. In general, the development of new mathematical and computational methods for the sciences is important to all members of IWR to enable challenging scientific research on most recent computer architectures.
Today, IWR has fifty members from the faculties of mathematics and computer science, physics and astronomy, chemistry and earth sciences, engineering sciences, biosciences, medicine, philosophy, and behavioral and cultural studies. All members of IWR possess the same rights and duties, participate in all interdisciplinary research activities, and are members of the Extended Board of Directors. Although these members are formally equal, from a purely administrative point of view, we distinguish between members which are budgeted at IWR, the so-called permanent “core” members, and those who are budgeted and located at other institutions of the university, so-called “associate” members.
In spring 2016, the “core” members moved into the Mathematikon building, which has since become the new “home” of IWR along with the Faculty for Mathematics and Computer Science. The Mathematikon was a generous donation by the Klaus Tschira Foundation, and provided a long-missing home for all Heidelberg University computing scientists in the fields of mathematics, computer science and scientific computing, who were previously scattered all over the campus. This modern and representative building at the entrance to the Neuenheimer Feld campus, offers an excellent and integrative research environment for scientists and scholars of IWR with sufficient space to host guest scientists, and to hold workshops and conferences, thereby sustainably boosting interdisciplinary research.
The permanent core unit forms the institutional nucleus of IWR with its own budget, office space, professorships and administrative staff. At present, the “core” unit consists of 13 permanent professorships, two senior professors and two independent junior research group leaders. According to university law, all IWR professors are also members of a faculty where they fulfill their teaching duties. Hereby, the interdisciplinarity of IWR is again reflected by the variety of faculties to which these positions are assigned: seven members belong to the Faculty for Mathematics and Computer Science, four members belong to the Faculty for Engineering Sciences, four to the Faculty for Physics and Astronomy, one to the Faculty for Chemistry and Earth Sciences and one to the Faculty of Medicine Heidelberg.
IWR and the German Excellence Program
IWR plays an important role in the strategy of Heidelberg University since the begin of the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Government. IWR managed to acquire the Heidelberg Graduate School “Mathematical and Computational Methods for the Sciences” (GSC 220) within the first and second round of the excellence initiative. In retrospective view, this was a milestone for IWR, since it helped establishing genuine interdisciplinary projects through a tailored PhD program and to promote scientific computing all over Heidelberg University; covering nowadays almost the complete university. In addition, scientific computing was especially funded through the “Zukunftskonzept 5.4” during the previous excellence strategy of Heidelberg University; which provided seed funding for innovative and interdisciplinary projects, in particular in computationally “innocent” areas of the sciences
It appears thus almost as logical consequence that IWR was promoted in 2019 as one out of three university-wide, cross-faculty incubators within the most recent Excellence Strategy “A Comprehensive Research University” of Heidelberg University. Besides the Marsilius Kolleg, a university-wide discussion platform, and the Heidelberg Center for the Environment (HCE), a university-wide topical research center, IWR acts as a university-wide methodological platform for interdisciplinary research in scientific computing. These three incubators together form the heart and soul of the excellence strategy of the university.
In this process, the Scientific Software Center was founded as service unit of IWR, promoting and supporting scientific software development and being available to all researchers of Heidelberg University. The scientific software engineers of the SSC help to develop modern, state-of-the-art software with a focus on sustainability and reusability. They also offer courses and training in best practices for research software use and development. The request for support from the SSC from all over the university has grown so large that the SSC has had to establish a competitive application format and a selection process to identify the most relevant projects. This speaks itself for the success of the SSC and the demand for support in state-of-the art scientific software development.
Last Update: 12.05.2022 - 23:15