21-765. Introduction to Parallel Computing and Scientific Computation

Students: Please send info about when you are NOT available to florin@andrew.cmu.edu by Thu Jan ?? 11:59pm

Location:Wean Hall room 8220   Time: Fri 1:30-3:30pm
First Lecture: Fri Jan 20, 2017
Projects due: graduating students - May 15, 2017 ; non-graduating students - May 20, 2017

Level: Introductory        Coverage: General

Instructor: Florin B. Manolache
Objectives Slides, Homework
e-mail: florin@andrew.cmu.edu
General Considerations Projects
Office: Wean Hall, Room 6218

Curriculum Bibliography
Office time: 9am-3pm
Credit Administrative

The objectives of this course are:

General Considerations

The course is intended to be self-consistent, no prior computer skills being required. However, familiarity with the C programming language and Unix command line should give the student more time to concentrate on the core issues of the course, as hardware structure, operating system and networking insights, numerical methods.

The main idea of the course is to give the student a hands-on experience of writing a simple software package that eventually can be implemented on a parallel computer architecture. All the steps and components of the process (defining the problem, numerical algorithms, program design, coding, different levels of documentation) are treated at a basic level. Everything is done in the context of a structured vision of the computing environment.

The typical programming environment makes the computer hardware and operating system transparent to the user. In contrast, each program intended for efficient parallel execution must consider the custom physical and logical communication topology of the processors in a parallel system. The course should give a general image over the entire range of issues that a developer should consider when designing a parallel algorithm, from principles to details. The knowledge provided by the course should be enough to help the audience decide what's the most appropriate technique to approach a problem on a given computer architecture. However, the development of an efficient algorithm will require a lot of additional study, practice, and experimental work.

The examples, exercises, and projects were determined by the computers and software available for practice. The following were preferred: the C language, the x86_64 hardware platform, and the Linux operating system. However, the presentation will be kept at a very general level such that the student is prepared for any actual parallel computing environment.

The course contains three parts:

The first part makes the connection between real life and the computer world.
The second part provides the background needed to understand how the computer systems work.
The third part explores the performance computing world.


Students will have to pick a project no later than the third week of the semester and to deliver milestones every other week. A project consists in developing a (simple) software package  or module that have a defined practical purpose. More details and alternatives are here. Students are welcome to discuss with the instructor projects close to their scientific interests, or pick one of the offered projects.

Grading is done based on class attendance and merits of the project as:

Homework will be assigned after most lectures. Submitting solutions is not mandatory, but can be a plus for grading. The purpose of the homework is to help develop practical skills and get used with the computing environment. The homework is recommended for students auditing the lectures as well. Students are encouraged to submit solutions containing interesting approaches or comments.


Students are welcome to participate for credit or for fun.

The time of the lectures will be established by consulting the schedules of the students interested in the course. Registered students' schedule have priority. The time will be announced on this webpage and by e-mail ASAP.

Unregistered students should express their interest and time preferences by e-mail to florin@andrew.cmu.edu or in person (Wean Hall, Room 6218) at any time before second day of school of the Spring Semester.

I'm always available for lengthy consultations and discussions regarding the projects and the curriculum.