Roy and Niels

Roy and Niels

Monday, February 21, 2011

Notes from the 2011 Geant4 Winter Course Tutorial

In January I traveled to Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, USA to attend the Geant4 Winter Course Tutorial to brush up on my Geant4 skills. Here are some of my impressions from the tutorial. The tutorial was from 10-14 January and, despite being in Texas, was on the cold side. Though hosted by the Texas A&M Dept. of Nuclear Engineering, the tutorial itself was held in the main auditorium of the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS). There were about 100 attendees from all over the world, with a sizable fraction from A&M.

So what goes on at one of these tutorials? As described in Niels' earlier post about the different Monte Carlo "codes", Geant4 is not a program, per se, but rather a toolkit, primarily consisting of a set of C++ libraries and data files. The tutorial was aimed at bringing Geant4 newbies and post-newbies up to speed and slightly beyond. To accomplish this, we attended classes for five days in the stadium style auditorium with lectures covering a myriad of topics. Each day had one or two "hands on" sessions, in which we'd work through examples and have our questions answered. In many ways, the hands on sessions were the most useful, because of the one-on-one help. The actual exercises may not have been terribly useful, but having the time to ask questions with laptop-at-the-ready was when things came together. I certainly asked a few questions that were completely unrelated to the tutorial (but not unrelated to my research!) (Thanks again Sebastian!). The other thing I found extremely helpful was simply having time to discuss things with the Geant4 developers and other users. On the last day there were break-out sessions for medical physics, high energy physics, and on DNA damage. I attended the medical physics session with about 30 other people.

Other random notes:
  • The attendees were a good mix of medical physics, nuclear applications, high energy physics, and others.
  • I met a number of people involved with proton therapy projects as well as a post-doc from Wayne State working on their re-commissioned fast neutron therapy project.
  • To keep small animals outside of TIPS, they had several poisonous plastic rocks outside the building (yes, really).
  • We got a nice tour of TIPS, which included seeing the "most powerful" PET/CT scanner in existence.
  • Catering by Jason's Deli all week
  • Possibility of using cloud computing for distributed Geant4 was mentioned in a lecture by Asai. This is a subject of one of my projects (see arXiv:1009,5282v1 []).
  • Looked a lot like a web surfing conference.

Overall it was a good tutorial. We learned that we were taking some wrong (or at least more difficult) paths in our code. Certainly Geant4 is a vast topic and a tutorial like this can be very helpful, if only to meet the right people for when you need to ask questions.