At a launch on leap day, Monday 29 February, Monash University boosted its capacity to support Australian researchers in the application of visual computing with the installation of a new $2.5m computer, M3.

M3 has been purchased and installed by MASSIVE (Multi-modal Australian ScienceS Imaging and Visualisation Environment) a high performance computing collaboration led by Monash University with partners CSIRO and the Australian Synchrotron. Since 2010, MASSIVE has played a key role in driving discoveries across many disciplines including biomedical sciences, materials research, engineering and geosciences, with a particular focus on processing complex and high volume data.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel AO acknowledged the important role of new technology in enabling us to see more and consequently, learn more.

“You cannot understand what you cannot see,” he said.

Dr Finkel departed from what he described as a lifetime of avoiding “pushing large dangerous looking red buttons” to formally turn on M3.

“I have found that at Monash, my alma mater, the quirky side will somehow bubble to the surface,” he said of the request to push the button.

“MASSIVE provides specialised processing power to build three dimensional X-ray images at micrometre resolution or complex maps to summarise the interconnections between millions of brain cells. At a glance, scientists can now visualise and understand these complex structures.”

The new computing capability adds to MASSIVE’s suite of high performance computers that are accessible to researchers at Monash and around Australia.

Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor Christina Mitchell, highlighted the central role of increased computing power in linking data, for example from imaging and cellular-level microscopy to genomic data.

“Analysing data from high-resolution imaging or genomics is a computational brutal task,” Professor Mitchell said.

M3 will help Monash researchers analyse the wealth of data being generated by next-generation instruments, including the Titan Krios at the Monash Ramaciotti Cryo Electron Microscopy Centre, the new PET-MR scanner at Monash Biomedical Imaging and upcoming super-resolution and lightsheet microscopes at Monash Micro Imaging.

Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute researcher Professor Trevor Lithgow is exploring how new drugs able to target specific molecular machines needed for bacteria to survive and multiply could reverse antibiotic resistance.

“Speed is needed for my research,” he said. “We need to go after superbugs with super drugs. And with MASSIVE’s computing power and images from the cryo-EM I have the trifecta for fast-tracking my research – fabulous kit, world-class people and supercomputing power.”

Check out the animation made for the day here.

For further information, please see the MASSIVE website: