Simulates natural phenomena using high-performance computers

Carol Woodward

The simulation of natural phenomena using high-performance computers (HPC) is essential to Livermore’s work and touches on almost all of its science, from high-energy-density research for stockpile stewardship to basic science. Inputs from many fields and researchers help produce these simulations, but applied mathematics informs all of them. Carol Woodward, computational scientist at the Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC), develops nonlinear solvers and time integration methods that are essential to developing HPC-based simulations.

After completing a B.S. at Louisiana State University, and her Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics at Rice University, Woodward joined CASC as a postdoc and then became a staff researcher. She works with scientists from many fields to develop simulation code, and to improve the speed and accuracy of their simulations. Her first project at CASC was modeling variably saturated subsurface water flow in large-scale systems. For this, she developed a novel nonlinear solution and implemented it in ParFlow, a parallel watershed model for ground- and surface water management. Her solution is now used worldwide for watershed simulation and climate analysis. Woodward has also applied algorithms she developed to simulation problems in fields such as climate prediction, astrophysics (modeling supernovae), materials science, and combustion.

Woodward is the project lead for the Suite of Nonlinear and Differential/Algebraic Solvers (SUNDIALS), an open source software package of time integrators and solvers used in HPC simulations. Woodward’s team develops and maintains the software, enabling its use on the Department of Energy’s national laboratories’ supercomputers. Through SUNDIALS, Woodward has become involved in special projects such as an effort to simulate the electricity grid—the world’s largest machine.  

“The people at Livermore are fantastic,” says Woodward. “We have an amazing staff and a professional environment.” She finds that her work at Livermore keeps her engaged. “Putting mathematics into real-world applications is what I like to do. It’s not easy, it’s very challenging, but it’s also fun.” Woodward also serves in professional organizations, including the editorial boards of several journals such as the ACM Transactions on Mathematical Software, and the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing. In 2018 she also serves as the Vice President At Large of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and on the Executive Committee of the Association for Women in Mathematics. In 2017, she was named a Fellow by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics for “contributions to the development and application of numerical algorithms and software for large-scale simulations of complex physical phenomena.”

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Simulates natural phenomena using high-performance computers