The Cori supercomputer has roughly 750,000 more disk capacity than the average desktop computer. Photo | Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The Cori supercomputer is incredibly fast and efficient. The Cray XC40 system at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has peak theoretical speeds of 30 petaflops a second and features 30 petabytes of disk capacity. That’s about 750,000 times the disk capacity than your average desktop computer.

Simply put, it’s the fifth most powerful supercomputer in the world and it’s aptly named after a woman – renowned biochemist, Gerty Cori.

Gerty Cori – The Scientist

Gerty Cori (August 15, 1896 – October 26, 1957) was the first American woman (and third woman) to win the Nobel Prize in science for her discovery of the catalytic conversion of glycogen. Her work influenced many advances in medicine today, including her findings that proved critical for the treatment of diabetes.

For a girl who grew up in Prague during a time when female scientists and medical professionals were considered beneath men, rising to her level of achievement was not an easy feat.

She found her way to the German University of Prague Medical School, where she met her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori. The couple became research partners and focused on determining how glucose was metabolized in the body and the hormones that regulated this process.

But unlike Carl, Gerty was unable to obtain a research position. Many universities were appalled by their collaboration. It is reported that some went as far as to say it was “un-American for a married couple to work together.”

Those statements did not dissuade the Coris. They finally landed research positions together at Washington University in Missouri despite Gerty being offered a research associate position at one-tenth of her husband’s salary. She worked 13 years to achieve the same status.

In 1943, she finally became an associate professor of research biological chemistry and pharmacology at Washington University. Months before Gerty won the Nobel Prize, she was promoted to full professor. Today, that legacy continues on with the scientists and researchers that work on the Cori supercomputer every day at Berkeley Lab.

Cori – The Supercomputer

Cori has unprecedented computing power. Its 7,000 users can run computer simulations and perform data analysis on extreme scales and gain scientific insight faster than ever before.

For example, researchers are now running simulations to help design "table-top" accelerators that could take the place of larger, more expensive machines used in scientific experiments today. Other scientists are using the results of simulations to identify novel materials for batteries that would greatly increase the range of electric vehicles and battery life of common devices like cell phones and tablets.

In addition, Cori helps solve some of the world’s most complex challenges. It runs codes to study the large-scale structure of the universe, sub-atomic particles, capture and underground storage of carbon dioxide gas, the production of energy using nuclear fusion reactions, desalinization of seawater, and energy-efficient LED lighting.

Would you expect anything less from a supercomputer that bears Gerty Cori’s name?

Learn more about Cori and Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center