Supercomputing Course - The University of Edinburgh


2 locations available
Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description


Discover how supercomputers work and the real-life scientific breakthroughs made possible by today’s computer simulations.

Why join the course?

Today’s supercomputers are the most powerful calculating machines ever invented, capable of performing more than a thousand million million calculations every second. This gives scientists and engineers a powerful new tool to study the natural world – computer simulation.

This run of the course will be unfacilitated, meaning that the educators won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments. However, the course still encourages a strong learning community focussed around debate and discussion - supporting other learners, sharing your own experience and knowledge, and listening to new perspectives.

Using supercomputers, we can now conduct virtual experiments that are impossible in the real world – from looking deep inside individual atoms to studying the future climate of the earth and following the evolution of the entire universe from the big bang.

Learn with Europe’s leading supercomputing experts

This supercomputing course has been developed by the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC) at The University of Edinburgh in collaboration with SURFsara from The Netherlands.

PRACE coordinates many of the largest supercomputers in Europe, so has world-leading experience of the benefits that supercomputing can bring.

EPCC is a PRACE partner, operates the UK national supercomputer ARCHER and has a long history of developing and delivering training.

What topics will you cover?

  • Supercomputers: introducing supercomputing terminology and some of the largest machines in the world.
  • Parallel computers: how they are built from hundreds of thousands of CPUs, each similar to those in a desktop PC.
  • Parallel computing: using parallel processing to harness the power of all of those CPUs for a single calculation.
  • Computer simulation: how we can perform virtual experiments to make real-life predictions.
  • Case studies: how supercomputing is making scientific breakthroughs that were never possible before.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. 

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to:

  • Describe how the performance of modern supercomputers is measured and achieved.
  • Explain why they are built from thousands of simple processors.
  • Compare the architectures of shared-memory and distributed-memory computers.
  • Describe the shared-variables and message-passing programming models.
  • Summarise why computer simulation is a fundamental component of modern scientific discovery.
  • Investigate simple problems and look for opportunities for parallel processing.
  • Discuss the limitations of parallel computing.
  • Identify examples of scientific areas where computer simulation is used.
  • Discuss the upcoming challenges of building exascale supercomputers.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in leading-edge computing technology, supercomputers or the role that computer simulation takes in modern science and engineering.

All of the technical aspects will be covered at a conceptual level and there is no requirement to be able to write computer programmes. However, anyone with existing programming experience will learn how programming modern supercomputers differ from programming a home PC.

Who will you learn with?

David Henty

I have been working with supercomputers for over 25 years and teaching people how to use them for almost as long. I joined EPCC after doing research in computational theoretical physics.

Weronika Filinger

My academic background is in physics but after getting interested in the computation side of science I did an MSc in HPC. Now I work at EPCC and spend my free time travelling, hillwalking and reading.

Who developed the course?

Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE)

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) is an international non-profit association with its seat in Brussels.

The University of Edinburgh

Founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top universities and is globally recognised for research, innovation and high-quality teaching.


SURFsara creates a bridge between research and advanced ICT.

Join this course



$259.99 for one year

Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 7 weeks

Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • Access to this course’s tests as well as a print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

Learn 100% online with world-class universities and industry experts. Develop your career, learn a new skill, or pursue your hobbies with flexible online courses.

Learn 100% online with world-class universities and industry experts. Develop your career, learn a new skill, or pursue your hobbies with flexible online courses. Read less
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