Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Computational science

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provides academics and industry with world-class support and facilities in computational science that help them to address some of the biggest challenges in science.

Partners involved:
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)

The scope and what we're doing

This is the age of data, but how can data’s value be maximised to aid research and innovation in fields ranging from energy to engineering, from particle physics to the life sciences? And what will the computing landscape of tomorrow actually look like?

STFC provides organisations in academia and industry with world-class expertise and support in computational science. Specifically, we enable all types of organisations to develop software, tame data mountains, discern patterns in complex datasets and harness computing to improve prediction and forecasting.

Scientific computing department

Our scientific computing department provides academia and industry with large-scale high performance computing (HPC) facilities, as well as computing data services and infrastructure. The department includes world-leading experts in computational chemistry, computational engineering, software engineering, petascale storage and many other disciplines.

Distributed Research Utilising Advanced Computing (DiRAC)

The DiRAC facility provides the particle physics, nuclear physics, astronomy and cosmology research communities with access to HPC and theoretical modelling technologies that can tackle the most intractable of research challenges.

Hartree Centre

The Hartree Centre offers industry access to world-class HPC capabilities and complementary software skills. The centre is home to Scafell Pike, the UK’s leading supercomputer dedicated to industry engagement – capable of performing around four quadrillion calculations per second.

A Grid for Particle Physics (GridPP)

GridPP provides data processing, data modelling and data analysis services as part of a global network for the Large Hadron Collider, as part of the LHC Computing Grid and European Grid. We also host one of the Tier 1 supercomputers that make it all possible.

Complementing these core capabilities

We host the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA), a joint initiative with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), supporting researchers in environmental science, furthering archival practices in the field of environmental data and developing new technologies that can improve access to data.

We host the UK Solar System Data Centre (UKSSDC), which harnesses grid computing technologies to facilitate access to national and international datasets for the UK’s solar system science community.

Through all these mechanisms, we complement the contribution made by the other research councils, driving innovation and achievement in the vital sphere of computational science and leading-edge computing.

STFC national facilities

We support STFC national facilities including the Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source and the Central Laser Facility.

These facilities provide the large-scale experimental instrumentation needed to underpin a wide range of research activities in a number of key areas of science and technology, including physics, chemistry, biology and earth sciences.

General themes include studies of the structure and dynamics of condensed matter, molecular and plasma systems using high intensity light and neutron beamlines.

STFC centres for doctoral training in data intensive science

Eight centres for doctoral training in data intensive science were set up for students starting in October 2017.

STFC provided funding for this first cohort of 98 students. With further funding from the National Productivity Investment Fund, STFC was able to fund a further cohort of 27 students starting in October 2018.

The centres are:

Why we're doing it

There are a number of science challenges requiring high performance computing that need to be addressed in the sciences.

Cosmology and astronomy

The challenges within cosmology and astronomy include:

  • modelling the large-scale structure of the Universe
  • the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and the physics of the intergalactic and intracluster gas
  • studying fundamental physics in the early Universe
  • the effects of dark energy and modified gravity on structure formation
  • parameter estimation and model selection using large astronomical datasets generated by cosmic microwave background experiments and large galaxy redshift surveys
  • theoretical simulations vital for efficient and effective use of STFC-supported telescope facilities on ground or in space.

Study of the local astronomical environment

We need to study the astronomical environment from the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere to the stars and gas clouds of the galaxy.

This includes:

  • modelling solar and planetary magnetohydrodynamics and galactic dynamos
  • modelling star and planet formation
  • understanding the local astronomical environment from the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere, including space weather, gas and dust around stars.

Study of strong force

We need to study the theory of the strong force using the numerical techniques of lattice-regularised quantum field theory.

The objective is to increase the predictive power of the standard model of particle physics and other relevant strongly interacting field theories by numerical simulation of lattice-regularised quantum field theory.

This leads to the calculation of physical quantities which are essential to the interpretation of experimental observations.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Who to contact

Sarah Garlick, Senior Programme Manager, Digital Research Infrastructure


Information on studentships


Last updated: 24 October 2022

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