Hands-On Introduction to High Performance Computing

9 October 2018 : Part of the Ada Lovelace Day programme of events.

This course provides a general introduction to High Performance Computing (HPC) using the UK national HPC service, ARCHER, and/or Cirrus as the platforms for the exercises.

Familiarity with desktop computers is presumed but no programming, Linux or HPC experience is required. Programmers can however gain extra benefit from the course as source code for all the practicals will be provided.


Andy Turner

Andy Turner leads the application support teams for the UK national HPC services ARCHER and Cirrus. He is also heavily involved in advanced computing training at EPCC. Andy has a particular interest in enabling new user communities to make use of HPC and the use of novel user engagement to improve the HPC user experience. He has been involved the HPC Carpentry initiative for the past two years.


Neelofer Banglawala

Neelofer is a course organiser for Scientific Python and is also involved in teaching MPI, HPC and Software Carpentry courses.



High-performance computing (HPC) is a fundamental technology used in solving scientific problems. Many of the grand challenges of science depend on simulations and models run on HPC facilities to make progress, for example: protein folding, the search for the Higgs boson, and developing nuclear fusion.

This half-day course will provide an introduction to the basic concepts underlying the drivers for HPC development, HPC hardware, software, programming models and applications. It will provide an opportunity for some practical experience, information on performance and the future of HPC. This foundation will give the you ability to appreciate the relevance of HPC in your field and also equip you with the tools to start making effective use of HPC facilities yourself.

The course is delivered using a mixture of lectures and practical sessions and has a very practical focus. During the practical sessions you will get the chance to use Cirrus with HPC experts on-hand to answer your questions and provide insight.

This course is free to all academics.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this course students should be able to explain:

  • Why HPC? - What are the drivers and motivation? Who uses it?
  • HPC Hardware - Building blocks and architectures
  • Using HPC systems - Access, compilers, resource allocation and performance


Attendees are expected to have experience of using desktop computers, but no programming, Linux or HPC experience is necessary.

Attendees should bring their own wireless-enabled laptop (Windows/Mac/Linux) with the required software already installed - please see our software page for details.


Details are subject to change, but start, end and break times will stay the same.

  • 12:30 LECTURE: Welcome and Overview
  • 12:45 LECTURE: Why learn about HPC?
  • 13:15 PRACTICAL: Logging on
  • 13:30 Lunch Break
  • 14:30 LECTURE: Image sharpening
  • 14:45 PRACTICAL: Image Sharpening
  • 15:30 BREAK: Coffee
  • 16:00 LECTURE: Parallel Programming
  • 16:45 LECTURE: Fractals
  • 17:00 PRACTICAL: Fractals
  • 17:30 Finish

Lunch and refreshments will NOT be provided but the teaching room is right beside the Magnet Cafe where these can be purchased.

Course Materials

Links to the Slides and exercise material for this course.


The course will be held in JCMB Room 3211, 12:30 - 17:30


Please use the registration page to register for ARCHER courses.


If you have any questions please contact the ARCHER Helpdesk.