It’s estimated there are more possible moves in a game of chess than atoms in the universe, making accurate predictions of players’ moves impossible. Fortunately, in the world of supercomputer simulation, an approach called Quantum Monte Carlo solves Schrödinger’s famed differential equations to accurately predict the electronic structure of atoms under pressure. Physicist Miguel Morales-Silva is part of a Livermore effort to derive the bulk properties of materials under extreme conditions by developing advanced QMC codes and running them on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.
Miguel joined the Laboratory’s Equation of State and Materials Theory Group in 2010 after earning his PhD in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During his graduate studies he participated in a 10-week research stint at LLNL that proved to be “a wonderful experience,” he recalls. “It gave me a first-hand look at how research is conducted at the Laboratory. Graduate students know very little about what goes on at the national labs.”
In 2014 he was selected by the White House for a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their careers. In 2015 he was named the Early Career National Hispanic Scientist of the Year.
Miguel describes his current research as “pushing the application of QMC methods across the periodic table so we can predict with high confidence the bulk properties of elements solely by simulating hundreds to thousands of atoms.” He notes that “the focus at Livermore is on large-scale science problems relevant to society that are beyond the scope of a university but too basic for industry.” He recommends interested graduate students—and even undergraduates—try to gain some exposure to Lawrence Livermore. “If you are really ambitious and want to experience large-scale science then this is the place to be.” Visiting students are welcome to stop by and say hello and, if time permits, stay for a game of chess.