CERN SFT Gsoc 2015 ideas page


We participated in the Google Summer of Code with success each year since 2011, so we are applying again in 2015!
We intend to offer three options - pick one of the Project ideas which are grouped into categories, have a look to the section dedicated to 'Blue sky' or propose your own great idea for this summer: we are looking forward to hearing about your perspectives. A list of our mentors (and their areas of expertise) can be found here.

We encourage students who plan to apply to contact us  about their interest and explain their project ideas as early as possible. Our experience from our previous GSoC participation was that frequently an initial student application either needs to be reworked in close collaboration with a future mentor, or at least can benefit from feedback and discussion. Please do not forget to provide us with some relevant information about yourself (for example CV, past projects, personal page or blog, linkedin profile, github account, etc.).

Before submitting an application please consult the official GSoC FAQ where you can find some good advice on writing a successful application. The application should be submitted through the GSoC webapp before the 27th of March (19:00 UTC).

Project ideas

CernVM File System

The CernVM File System (CernVM-FS) is a read-only file system that is optimized for the distribution of software to world-wide distributed computing infrastructures.  It is used in the context of large-scale scientific computing applications that use tens of thousands of individual computers to process very large data sets in reasonable time.  All these computers need to access specific data processing software.  The access to the software is provided by CernVM-FS, a global and versioning file system that uses HTTP for data transfer.  The file system content is installed on a central web server from where it can be mirrored and cached by other web servers and web proxies.  File system clients download data and meta-data on demand and cache them locally.  Data integrity and authenticity is ensured by the use use cryptographic hashes and digital signatures.  CernVM-FS is used, among others, by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments for the distribution hundreds of millions files and directories of experiment software onto tens of thousands of worldwide distributed nodes.

Source code:
Documentation:, Doxygen

HTTP/2 Support

Description: CernVM-FS uses HTTP for all data transfers.  This includes clients requesting files from servers as well as server to server copies for replication.  Since the file system’s workload is primarily characterized by a large number of small files, reducing the latency is paramount to performance.  Here, the upcoming HTTP/2 brings some interesting new features, in particular connection multiplexing and fixing head-of-line blocking, which should fix the current problems with HTTP/1.1 pipelining.  This project should add support for HTTP/2 in the CernVM-FS network code and re-arrange the code for data replication to use a multiplexed connection instead of parallel connections.  The HTTP/2 code itself will probably be taken from libcurl.  Optionally, this project can be extended to develop a data prefetcher using multiplexed connections.

Expected results: Extend the CernVM-FS download manager by a vectorized interface, so that a number of download jobs can be sent and received at once.  Develop the necessary code to automatically decide if parallel connections (HTTP/1.1 on the other end) or multiplexed connections (HTTP/2) should be used.  Extend the CernVM-FS replication module to use the vectorized interface of the download manager.  Extend the CernVM-FS file system code by a pre-fetch thread, that is able to prefetch a given list of data chunks in the background.  Extend the file system's meta-data by a table that can store prefetch hints.

Mentor: Jakob Blomer, Gerardo Ganis

Requirements: Good knowledge of C++, good knowledge of HTTP and TCP/IP.  Experience with libcurl would be an advantage.

Key-Value Store Interface for the Client Cache

Description: CernVM-FS stores downloaded files in a local cache.  This is necessary for performance and to keep the load on the web servers and proxies sufficiently low.  At the moment, the local cache needs to reside on a POSIX file system.  In order to perform collaborative caching in a cluster (i.e.: node A can cache a file for node B and vice versa), the dependency of the local cache on a POSIX file system should to be relaxed to a pure PUT/GET interface.  That would allow to store the local cache in a key-value store such as RAMCloud or Riak.  At the conceptual level, this project includes to find a way to prevent many clients in a cluster to download the same file at the same time (i.e.: to find a way to collapse concurrent requests for the same file). The cache eviction requires special treatment, too, in case that files marked for deletion are currently used by a client.  Both problems could be tackled, for instance, by a locking/lease table that is maintained in the key-value store.

Expected results: Based on the current cache manager implementation, separate the cache manager interface (open, close, read, exists, delete) from its implementation.  Plug in the current implementation as a POSIX cache manager.  Develop a cache manager implementation that uses a key-value store as backing storage.  Develop locking primitives in the key-value store that can be used to collaboratively update the cache from multiple nodes.

Mentor: Jakob Blomer, Gerardo Ganis

Requirements: Good knowledge of C++, good knowledge of distributed systems (e.g. CAP theorem, distributed hash tables, failure modes in networks).  Experience with distributed key-value stores would be an advantage.

Geant 4 Simulation Toolkit and Geant Vector Prototype

The Geant4 toolkit simulates the interactions of elementary particles and radiation with matter. It is used to simulate the detectors of the LHC and other High Energy Physics (HEP) experiments. It finds application in other areas, from assessing the effects of radiation on the electronics of satellites to improving the design of medical detectors using domain-specific tools such as the GATE and TOPAS applications (external links). LHC experiments use Geant4 to compare the signatures of rare events from new physics (such as the Higgs boson) to those coming from known interactions. The open source toolkit is developed by the Geant4 collaboration, which brings together 90 physicists and engineers from laboratories and universities around the world (link is external). Developments are ongoing to improve its precision and scope of application, and to better utilise current and emerging computer architectures. The simulation programs of the LHC experiments use the Geant4 simulation toolkit to produce simulated LHC events running on about 100,000 CPU cores continuously. Their statistics remain a limitation in the analysis potential for some interesting types of new physics. As a result the goal of the project is to explore different ways to reduce the execution time on today’s complex commodity CPUs, and to prototype how to use it efficiently on the many-core hardware of the future (tens, hundreds of cores, threads or ‘warps’). The code required to model diverse types of particles and interactions, and to model the complex geometries of detectors is large. Due to this it overwhelms the caches of current CPUs, significantly reducing the efficiency of utilisation on today’s hardware. This effort is focused on identifying ways to reorganise the work so that more data (e.g. multiple particles or rays) is processed by each function. By reusing the code on 'nearby' data we aim to use the memory architectures of today’s hardware better. At the same time we prepare the way to obtain good performance on tomorrow’s hardware. The key activity in this effort involes the Geant-Vector prototype (GeantV) which aims to evolve the simulation toolkit into a framework that is better adapted to the critical role of memory caches, and makes optimal use of SIMD vector instructions and accelerator devices.


VecGeom is a novel templated C++ library to describe three-dimensional detector geometries and to offer "particle tracing" APIs (much like in ray-tracing or game engines). VecGeom goes beyond previously existing libraries (in Geant4 or ROOT) by offering a strong support for single-instruction multiple data (SIMD) processing of multiple particles and also offers SIMD-enhanced scalar algorithms for appropriate shapes. VecGeom is also built to be used as the geometry tracing library on GPUs and other accelerators. VecGeom is still a very young open source project and there are several project ideas, a GSOC student could contribute to:


  • "IO:" Study and implement support for native serialization of the VecGeom geometries using ROOT6/Cling object serialization. Implement a module to export and import a geometry description using the GDML format ( a XML format for description of geometries.) Implement an interface to the DD4HEP geometry descriptions.
  • "Testing and performance monitoring infrastructure:" Review and systematically extend the testing infrastructure of the project. Develop comprehensive unit tests. Develop a performance monitoring system that monitors performance evolution and displays results in a web-dashboard or in jenkins.
  • "Generalized GPU solid:" Extend the list of implemented shape primitives by a generalized vectorised/GPU-capable solid which can be used in place of the most popular existing solids (box, tube, conical & spherical shells) especially on the GPU. Inspired by the approach of James Tickner .


Requirements: Very good C++ knowledge; For "testing" project: ctest, database, frontend web development experience; For "GPU solid": some experience with the SIMD/SIMT paradigm and vectorized programming.

Mentor: Sandro Wenzel

Additions to the Vc library for vectorization

Vc is a free software library to ease explicit SIMD vectorization of C++ code. It has an intuitive API and provides portability between different compilers and compiler versions as well as portability between different vector instruction sets. This is achieved by offering C++ vector types that hide the platform specific vector assembly instructions. Vc is used as the primary abstraction layer to achieve vectorized code in the GeantV simulation prototype and in many other applications in High-Energy Physics and beyond. Vc is a relatively young project and offers many opportunities for further development in order to keep up with the evolution of computing platforms.

Task ideas:

  • Add support for 8-bit and 64-bit integer SIMD vectors (in particular for AVX2). A thorough investigation of SIMD vectors of char may be interesting for vectorization of string processing.
  • Add support for more SIMD (micro)architectures (AVX2, AVX-512, AltiVec)
  • Support for GPUs. There are several possibilities for supporting the vector types programming model on GPUs. One approach makes Vc codes portable to GPUs by supporting Vc types in CUDA kernels as scalar values. Thus, the data-parallelism is only expressed via the SIMT programming model. The second approach instructs a compiler to generate native GPU code, which executes a GPU thread per entry in the vector type.

Requirements: Working on Vc requires (very) good knowledge of C++ and preferably previous exposure to SIMD assembly or intrinsics programming. In the course of the project your C++ skills will very likely improve. It is possible to get gain insight into the work on SIMD parallelization for the upcoming C++ standards.

Mentor: Matthias Kretz

New methods for integrating trajectory in field

Geant4 and GeantV use Runge-Kutta methods​ to integrate the motion of charged particles in a non-uniform electromagnetic field. Two aspects of this use are important: to obtain good accuracy for the integration and to take a minimum of computation time. Sometimes a step remains in the same volume, and the integration needs only to estimate the endpoint and the momentum.  But when a track crosses a boundary, integration is used also to identify the intersection point between the curved track and the volume boundaries.  Due to the large number of steps and the cost of the evaluations of the field, the integration and intersection are a performance critical part of detector simulation. Adapting RK methods which reduce the number of field evaluations has the potential to measurably decrease the computation time in applications as diverse as the simulation of detectors at the LHC and the development of improved radiation therapy systems.

Task ideas:

  • Introduce RK methods which re-use the last step of one step as the first step of the next step (FSAL)​
  • Introduce RK methods which can provide an evaluation at an intermediate point of an interval, using an interpolation method based on the values calculated by the integration.

Requirements: This project requires prior exposure to Numerical Analysis and some familiarity with C++, C or Java programming.  It would be helpful to have had either exposure to the numerical methods for solving Ordinary Differential equations (ODEs) or else to have used a Computer Algebra program (Maxima, Maple, Mathematica, Sage or similar) which would enable easier prototyping. Both programming skill and knowlege of numerical methods for ODEs will be improved by undertaking this project. 

Mentor: John Apostolakis



The ROOT system provides a set of OO frameworks with all the functionality needed to handle and analyze large amounts of data in a very efficient way. Having the data defined as a set of objects, specialized storage methods are used to get direct access to the separate attributes of the selected objects, without having to touch the bulk of the data. Included are histogramming methods in an arbitrary number of dimensions, curve fitting, function evaluation, minimization, graphics and visualization classes to allow the easy setup of an analysis system that can query and process the data interactively or in batch mode, as well as a general parallel processing framework, PROOF, that can considerably speed up an analysis. Thanks to the built-in C++ interpreter the command language, the scripting, or macro, language and the programming language are all C++. The interpreter allows for fast prototyping of the macros since it removes the, time consuming, compile/link cycle. It also provides a good environment to learn C++. If more performance is needed the interactively developed macros can be compiled. ROOT's new C++11 standard-compliant interpreter is Cling, an interpreter built on top of Clang ( (link is external)) and LLVM ( (link is external)) compiler infrastructure. Cling is being developed at CERN as a standalone project. It is being integrated into the ROOT data analysis ( framework, giving ROOT access to an C++11 standards compliant interpreter. ROOT is an open system that can be dynamically extended by linking external libraries. This makes ROOT a premier platform on which to build data acquisition, simulation and data analysis systems. ROOT is the de-facto standard data storage and processing system for all High Energy Phyiscs labs and experiments world wide. It is also being used in other fields of science and beyond (e.g. finance, insurance, etc).

Extension and optimisation of the ROOT6 autoloading capabilities

The flexible plug-in architecture of ROOT relies on a powerful mechanism of "autoloading", i.e. the possibility to automatically load shared libraries only when needed, for example upon the usage of a certain class, without the need of linking the libraries. The present infrastructure is rather performant and stable enough to be leveraged by huge software systems like the LHCb, Atlas or CMS software stacks. On the other hand, thanks to the procedure of integration of ROOT6 with the software of the LHC experiments it was possible to conceive possible functionality extensions and performance improvements. Examples are:

  • The extension of the mechanism of autoloading to accommodate the usage of functions and only classes, namespaces, variables and enumerators.
  • The usage of more memory and cache efficient data structures for the storage of the data necessary for autoload (e.g. exploiting tries or implicit sharing)
  • The optimisation of the rootmap files, i.e. the autogenerated catalogues containing the data to feed to the autoloading system
  • The improvement of the ROOT startup time with a clever preprocessing of the information to be passed to the ROOT interpreter. If time allows, the same strategies identified for the autoloading, can be applied to a similar procedure, called autoparsing.

All the new features and changes will be integrated in ROOT by the candidate together with a complete list of tests.
Expected Results

  • Implement the autoloading of shared libraries upon usage of functions
  • Replace the current implementation of the autoload keys registry with one which is faster and with a smaller memory footprint
  • Provide input about the performance of the rootmap format with runtime benchmarks and, if needed, provide a new format
  • A program/script for merging rootmaps avoiding duplication of information and a runtime procedure to format the rootmaps code which minimises the time needed by ROOT to interpret it

Strong C++ skills, knowledge in the field of Physics and HEP computation and/or experience with ROOT are certainly a plus.

Mentor: Danilo Piparo

SAS: A tool for static analysis and coding rules checking

Code maintenance is very much facilitated if the coding and style rules are followed. Commercial tools can be used to check the code for rule validations and to present the results in a easy form for developers to act on them. Unfortunately, such commercial solution might be not available for all developers especially in the field of research and adding new rules could become a real problem. SAS ( is a tool which attempts to make coding rules checking and clang based static analysis easy. This tool provides:

  • A simple way to build a Clang plugin providing checks which can be loaded by the scan-build utility or directly by Clang.
  • A tool to check formatting coding conventions taking advantage of clang-format
  • A set of scripts to wrap the compiler calls in order to plug static analysis and coding rules checking in any development workflow/continuous integration system.

The tool is in beta phase and needs consolidation and expansion of functionality. This project aims to provide:

  • The implementation via static analyser checkers of the ROOT coding conventions (
  • The consolidation of the existing static analyser checkers ensuring thread safety and potential development of new ones, for example imposing absence of thread unsafe operations in methods which are const qualified.
  • The integration of clang-modernize targetting suggestions about the possible improvements of existing code bases
  • The consolidation of the SAS CMake based build system
  • The development of a ctest based testing system

C++, Clang, Cmake/CTest and Python

Mentor: Danilo Piparo

Interface between Paraview and ROOT

Description:​Paraview is a powerful visualisation system, based on VTK, providing a wide range of high level visualisation techniques ROOT doesn’t provide. Paraview is already interfaced to many kind of data formats. The goal of this project would be to make a ROOT plugin to Paraview allowing to convert ROOT trees into Paraview data structures in order to visualise them.

Requirements: Knowledge of C++

Mentor: Olivier Couet, Joachim Pouderoux (Kitware)

Extend ROOT-R Interface

Description: Using the ROOT-R interface many of the statistical packages available in R such as those performing multi-variate analysis can be used in ROOT. The idea of the project is to facilitate the usage of some of the R packages by creating corresponding interface classes in the ROOT system. These classes should implement some of the needed interfaces required to be used by some of the statistical packages of ROOT and they could be loaded at run-time by the ROOT plugin manager system.
Expected Results: Develop interface classes for some of the most used the multi-variate statistical tools in R for classification and regression. These interface classes should be designed to be used by the TMVA package of ROOT.

Requirements: Knowledge of C++, ROOT and R. Knowledge of computational statistics would be an advantage.
Mentors: Lorenzo Moneta, Sergei Gleyzer

Prototype of TTreeFormula

Description: TTreeFormula is a class used to parse and interpret the expression strings used to query and make selections on the ROOT TTree class with the TTree::Draw function. A new TFormula class has been integrated in ROOT using the Just In Time compilation provided by Cling to compile the mathematical expression to evaluate the formula. A similar class needs to be developed for the expressions used to analysing the ROOT TTree's.

Expected Results: Develop a new prototype TTreeFormula class to be used as an alternative to the existing one and provide some running use case examples.

Required knowledge:Advanced C++, Basic knowledge of Cling and C++11

Mentors: Lorenzo Moneta, Danilo Piparo

LINQ 4 ROOT and Cling

Description: LINQ originally referred to the SQL-like syntax in C# and VB but it has over time changed its meaning to mean the way you manipulate lists using the higher-order functions provided by System.Linq. Working with lists using higher-order functions have been available for functional and SmallTalk developers since the 70s but has recently been popularized in mainstream languages such as C#, VB, JavaScript, Python, Ruby and so on. There are a few libraries that bring this style into C++11. We'd like to investigate their strengths and weaknesses. We would like to adopt them in our C++11 interpreter and provide a thorough real-world examples of their. A good starting point would be 

Expected results: Adoption in cling meeting cling's QA requirements. Implement tests for all the realized functionality. Prepare a final poster of the work and be ready to present it.

Required knowledge:Advanced C++, Basic knowledge of Cling and C++11

Mentors: Vasil Vasiliev

Extend clad - The Automatic Differentiation

Description: In mathematics and computer algebra, automatic differentiation (AD) is a set of techniques to numerically evaluate the derivative of a function specified by a computer program. Automatic differentiation is an alternative technique to Symbolic differentiation and Numerical differentiation (the method of finite differences). Clad ( is based on Clang which will provides the necessary facilities for code transformation. The AD library is able to differentiate non trivial functions, to find a partial derivative for trivial cases and has good unit test coverage. There was a proof-of-concept implementation for computation offload using OpenCL.

Expected results:The student should teach AD how to generate OpenCL/CUDA code automatically for a given derivative. The implementation should be very well tested and documented. Prepare a final poster of the work and be ready to present it.

Required knowledge: Advanced C++, Clang abstract syntax tree (AST), CUDA/OpenCL basic math.

Mentor: Vasil Vasiliev

Extension of ROOT I/O customization framework

ROOT includes a extensive, flexible, and performant framework to automatically serialize C++ objects into a platform independent binary format.  One of core strength of this framework is the ability to support evolution in the user's data schema and be able to read files containing older version of this schema.   The frameworks includes several automatic transformation, including from any C++ standard collections to another (for example changing for a vector<UserObject> to a list<UserObject>) and including from any numerical to another.   More complex transformation are also supported via I/O customization rules.   If the core functionality is in placed, some of the intended, but more complex features (see the end of have not yet been addressed.

Expected Results

  • Implement support for I/O rules for nested objects.
  • Implement support for just-in-time compilation of I/O rules.
  • Complete the functionality supported by the I/O customization rules.

Strong C++ skills, knowledge in the field of Physics and HEP computation and/or experience with ROOT are certainly a plus.

Mentor: Philippe Canal

Modernization of C++ object streaming framework.

ROOT includes a extensive, flexible, and performant framework to automatically serialize C++ objects into a platform independent binary format.  This framework is undergoing a modernization replacing older construct with newer and more performance techniques made possible by the newest version of the C++ standard and compiler.   This modernization has been partially applied to the routines reading the C++ objects out of the platform independent binary format and still need to be complete.    The same style of modernization needs to be applied to the routines writing the C++ objects into the platform independent binary format.  One the major challenge is to not only transform the code into the new style and infrastructure but also to improve the algorithm to take advantage of the new facilities to significantly improve performance.

Expected Results

  • Complete modernization of the reading routines. 
  • Implementation the modernization of the writing routines.

Strong C++ skills, knowledge in the field of Physics and HEP computation and/or experience with ROOT are certainly a plus.

Mentor: Philippe Canal

Implement a tool to 'warn' user of inefficient (for I/O) construct in data model

ROOT includes a extensive, flexible, and performant framework to automatically serialize C++ objects into a platform independent binary format.  One the major strength of this framework is the ability to support almost all C++ constructs.  The downside of this flexibility is that the user has the choice can select for a very wide ranges of constructs and schemas which have very different I/O performance characteristics.   Some of the recommendations for design an I/O efficient data schema are straightforward, for example it is better to use a sorted vector of pair than a map, and some are much more complex, like the effect of deeper class hierarchy or the order of data members.   Creating a tool that can analyze a given data model and give clear recommendation on how to improve its performance would be very beneficial and improve the productivity of data model designers.

Expected Results

  • Implement prototype scanning a user data model and giving simple recommendation.
  • Review and expand the list of recommendation to improve I/O efficiency.

Strong C++ skills, knowledge in the field of Physics and HEP computation and/or experience with ROOT are certainly a plus.

Mentor: Philippe Canal


IgProf is a lightweight performance profiling and analysis tool. It can be run in one of three modes: as a performance profiler, as a memory profiler, or in instrumentation mode. When used as a performance profiler it provides statistical sampling based performance profiles of the application. In the memory profiling mode it can be used to obtain information about the total number of dynamic memory allocations, profiles of the live'' memory allocations in the heap at any given time and information about memory leaks. The memory profiling is particularly important for C/C++ programs, where large amounts of dynamic memory allocation can affect performance and where very complex memory footprints need to be understood. In nearly all cases no code changes are needed to obtain profiles. IgProf currently supports Linux and x86 / x86-64 /ARMv7 and ARMv8 CPU architectures. It correctly handles dynamically loaded shared libraries, threaded applications and subprocesses. It can be run entirely in user space without special privileges and produces full navigable call stacks. The profile reports can be visualised in one of several ways. A simple text report can be produced from the raw data saved during the profiling run. Alternatively a web-browsable profile report can be produced which allows easy navigation of the call stack. Both allow one to see profile data ordered by symbol in terms of cumulative'' cost (function plus children) and ``self'' cost (time in the function itself) as well as a full call graph view showing the functions which called, and which were called by, any given function. An important feature of the web-navigable reports is the ability to point via URL at particular places in the call graph. This facilitates collaboration between individuals at different locations. While there are obviously many profilers out there, the goal of IgProf is to provide a reliable profiler for large applications like the one found in HEP, and to tackle the challenges posed by heterogenous computing architectures.


Improve Performance Counters support in IgProf

Description: IgProf has initial support for reading performance counters via the PAPI API. This is currently used to read and profile energy consumption related counters. The goal of this project is to extend the current implementation to allow profiling of generic HW counters, providing the user a simple command line based interface to select the different kind of counters.

Required knowledge: Excellent knowledge of C/C++ programming and understanding of Linux system programming and software execution in Linux are required.

Profiling mixed python / C++ programs

Description: IgProf currently supports profiling native applications, most likely written in C / C++. Profiling scripted applications which invoke native code (e.g. a python framework which invokes C++ plugins) is supported in the form of raw profile of the python interpreter itself, which eventually calls the native code functions. While this kind of profile can already provide insights, it is still desireable to be able to profile and visualize the script stacktraceand the native code one together, in order have a global picture of the connections between the scripted and native code.

Expected results: the first objective is to identify and instrument the parts of the python interpreter which are responsible for allocating, deallocating and execute python stackframes, eventually extending igprof instrumentation capabilities to deal with peculiarities of the python interpreter. The second objective is to collect enough information via the above mentioned instrumentation to be able to show mixed python / C / C++ profiles, first for the performance profiler and subsequently for the memory profiler.

Required knowledge: Excellent knowledge of C/C++ programming and understanding of Linux system programming and software execution in Linux are required. Understanding of python interpreter internals a plus.

Mentors: Giulio Eulisse, Peter Elmer, Vincenzo Innocente

Support for CUDA / OpenCL profiling

Description: Extend IgProf to gather information from the profiling APIs of one (or more) of the above mentioned packages. The goal is to be able to measure the performance cost of mixed CPU / GPU applications, taking into account the asynchronous behaviour of those applications, allowing to track the source of GPU workloads.

Required knowledge: Excellent knowledge of C/C++ programming and understanding of Linux system programming and software execution in Linux are required. Knowledge of the above mentioned toolkits a plus.

Mentor: Giulio Eulisse, Peter Elmer, Vincenzo Innocente

Enhanced support for POWER, x32 and MacOSX architectures

Description: Depending on the specific knowledge of the candidate, the task is to improve support for profiling Power Architecture (POWER7 and eventually POWER8) applications or, as an alternative, to extend the x86 support to include x32 (the 32bit pointers, 64bit data ABI for Intel compatible processors). An additional task would be to resurrect OSX support (IgProf used to work on PPC based OSX).

Required knowledge: Excellent knowledge of C/C++ programming and understanding of Linux system programming and software execution in Linux are required. Knowledge of at least one between ARM and x86 assembly language. Knowledge of MacOSX system programming a plus.

Mentor:Giulio Eulisse, Peter Elmer, Vincenzo Innocente

Sixtrack numerical accelerator simulation​

SixTrack is a software for simulating and analysing the trajectory of high energy particles in accelerators. It has been used in the design and optimization of the LHC and is now being used to design the upgrade that will be installed in the next decade the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC). Sixtrack has been adapted to take advantage of large scale volunteer computing resources provided by the LHC@Home project. It has been engineered to give the exact same results after millions of operations on several, very different computer platforms. The source code is written in Fortran, and is pre-processed by two programs that assemble the code blocks and provide automatic differentiation of the equation of motions. The code relies on the crlibm library, careful arrangement of parenthesis, dedicated input/output and selected compilation flags for the most common compilers to provide identical results on different platforms and operating systems. An option enables the use of the Boinc library for volunteer computing. A running environment SixDesk is used to generate input files, split simulations for LHC@Home or CERN cluster and collect the results for the user. SixTrack is licensed under LGPLv2.1.

A strong background in computer science and programming languages as well the interest to understand computational physics methods implemented in the code are sought. The unique challenge will be offered to work with a high-performance production code that is used for the highest energy accelerator in the world - and thus the code's reliability and backward compatibility cannot be compromised. There will be the opportunity to learn about methods used in simulating the motion of particles in accelerators.

Create a Standalone Tracking Library

Description: Complete, test and deploy a standalone tracking library in C to replace the present inner tracking loop written in fortran with C one that can target both CPU and GPU. The inner loop uses a simple array based contiguous data structure that can be generated by SixTrack or external programs and can be resident in the CPU or GPU main memory. In case of GPU, the ideal number of particle per core (even one such that coordinates do not leave internal registers) should be evaluated for speed.

Expected results: Running code which rely only on the newly rewritten library to perform tracking simulations and test suite that proves that old and new implementation produce identical results.

Mentors: Ricardo De Maria, Eric McIntosh

Requirements: Experience with Fortran, C, calculus and a background of physics are important.

New physics models

Description: Implement, test and put in production a new solver for exact bending dipoles, combined function magnets, radiation effects, track total time.

Expected results: The user can build accelerator simulations with more accurate models for low energy machines.

Mentors: Ricardo De Maria, Eric McIntosh

Requirements: Fortran, calculus, accelerator physics.


Methodical Accelerator Design

MAD is a tool with a long standing history used to design, model and optimise particle accelerators beam physics. The development of a completely new version of MAD (GPLv3) started recently with the aim to support a wider range of topologies and physics, and to provide more accurate models with better performance and flexibility. It relies heavily on the recent improvements performed on LuaJIT, an implementation of the Lua programming language embedding an extremely efficient JIT compiler. Still low-level mathematics and physics modules are implemented in C/C++ with high-level wrappers written in Lua and using native FFI of LuaJIT. Supported platforms are Linux, MacOSX and Windows.

Integration of MAD

Description: As the development evolves, it becomes more and more important to integrate all the different parts of the new MAD into a single standalone application with no external dependencies. The work will consist to embedded LuaJIT, MAD scripts (thousands lines of Lua), MAD libraries (thousands lines of C/C++) and third party libraries (C/C++, Fortran) into a single application in a portable manner, still allowing to load external modules at runtime (user scripts, shared libraries). The application must be able to run in interactive and batch mode with multiple internal Lua environments connected either in parallel or in series. A clear policy will have to be enforced for errors handling and memory management through the different layers and technologies of the application.

Expected results: A standalone application without external dependencies embedding all the components and aforementioned features of MAD, and being able to run in interactive and batch mode in a terminal on Linux, MacOSX and Windows.

Requirements: Good knowledge of C, Lua and OS tools. Good experience with portable integration and deployment of software. Knowledge of LuaJIT and FFI would be preferable.

Mentor: Laurent Deniau

Extension of LuaJIT for MAD

Description: Deferred expressions are heavily used in MAD to describe accelerator lattice while postponing business logic decision (e.g. circuits) at a later design or optimisation stage. Lua supports lambda functions as a generalisation of the deferred expressions, but the syntax is too verbose to be useful. The work will consist to extend the parser and possibly the semantic of LuaJIT through patches to support compact syntax of lambda functions and deferred expressions (lambda without formal  parameter), following the approach of GSL Shell. The extension of the semantic will tag lambdas as special LuaJIT functions that have to be evaluated instead of referenced when used in expressions without call semantic (i.e. without parenthesis). This automatic dereferencing will allow to efficiently emulate the deferred expressions mandatory for the new MAD.

Expected results: Set of patches to apply to LuaJIT (C code) after each update. The patches must be easy to maintain separately as LuaJIT evolves. A set of test cases to be run after each update to ensure no regression.

Requirements: Good knowledge of C. Good experience with parsers and interpreters. Knowledge of LuaJIT would be preferable.

Mentor: Laurent Deniau

Reflection-based Python-C++ language bindings: cppyy

cppyy is a fully automated, run-time, language bridge between C++ and Python. It forms the underpinnings for PyROOT, the Python bindings to ROOT, the main persistency and analysis framework in High Energy Physics (HEP), is used to drive the frameworks of several HEP experiments, and is the environment of choice for analysis for many HEP physicists. cppyy is the only Python-C++ bindings technology that can handle the scale, complexity, and heterogeneity of HEP codes. There are two implementations, one for CPython, and one for PyPy.

Source codes, documentation, and downloads:  and

Both the CPython and PyPy implementations support the CINT and Reflex reflection systems, the CPython version also supports Cling, which is based on Clang/LLVM.
There are two proposed projects that can proceed independently.


Pythonization API

Description: Full automation provides language bindings that cover the vast number of use cases, especially since the reflection information can be used to properly treat common patterns such as smart pointers, STL iterators and so on. We call these treatments "pythonizations", as the strictly bound C++ code is turned into bound code that has a Python "feel." However, there are always a few corner cases that can be improved with manual intervention. Currently this is done by helpers or wrapper code on the C++ or Python side, but a well-designed API standardizes these manual tasks, improving the scalability and interoperability.

Expected results: Design and implement a "pythonization" API that covers all the common cases such as different memory ownership models, hand-off of the Global Interpreter Lock (GIL), and user-defined callbacks that handle more common patterns such as has been done for STL. Implement this for both CPython (in C++) as well as for PyPy (in (R)Python). The API should scale up and be able to deal with conflicts.

Extra: some patterns, such as return by reference of builtin values, can not be described in Python code and need C++ wrappers. Extend the wrapper generator in use by Cling to provide such "pythonizations" automatically.

Requirements: Good knowledge of C++, excellent knowledge of Python

Mentor: Wim Lavrijsen

Integrate the Cling backend into PyPy/cppyy

Description: Cling, being based on Clang/LLVM can parse the latest C++ standard (C++11/C++14). A Cling backend exists for CPython/cppyy, but not yet for PyPy/cppyy. A common backend could serve both projects, and would reduce the cost of new features, making them much quicker available.

Expected results: Implement a Cling backend on libCling directly, using the CPython implementation as a starting point, for use by both CPython and PyPy. Package this backend for distribution. Design and implement a method for distribution of Clang modules with the standard Python distribution tools.

Requirements: Working knowledge of C++, good knowledge of Python

Mentor: Wim Lavrijsen


Access to extremely large data volumes is a key aspect of many "Big Data" problems in the sciences and for particle physics in particular. The international character of such projects also leads to the need to access data located in many geographical locations. The Xrootd project ( (link is external)) aims at giving high performance, scalable fault tolerant access to data repositories of many kinds. It is primarily used to provide access to file system storage over the local or wide area network; however, it is also used as a building block for larger storage systems such as CERN EOS ( (link is external)) or the large-scale global data federations. The Xrootd protocol has many high-performance features (such as asynchronous requests and request pipelining) which are analogous to those added to HTTP/2. The Xrootd client is used throughout High Energy Physics and is well-integrated in the ROOT data analysis package.

Implement multi-sourcing interface with the Xrootd client

Description:The Xrootd client often has several potential data sources available. Each source may be of varying quality, and quality may change over time. To speed up data access - and to decrease the impact of poor source selection - we would like to investigate the implementation of a multi-source reading algorithm (reading from several sources in parallel). This would be implemented as a plug-in to the existing client and expose identical interfaces; a sample algorithm is already available from other sources.

Requirements: Excellent knowledge of C++ programming and understanding of basic network and storage architectures.

Mentors : Matevz Tadel, Brian Bockelman, Andy Hanushevsky

Implement a client-side caching library

Description: Caching data locally on the client side can be very important to achieving performance when network latencies are high. This project involves the implementation of a client side plugin library to temporarily cache data being read to disk.

Requirements: Excellent knowledge of C++ programming and understanding of basic network and storage architectures.

Mentors : Matevz Tadel, Brian Bockelman, Andy Hanushevsky

'Blue sky' ideas

Binary code browser and tester

Description: This is a potential project on tool development for the benefit of "low-level" developers in various other projects. It proposes the development of a GUI based (web) application with which one is able to browse through a binary file ( executable, object file, library file ) and inspect the assembly code on various levels ( functions ). It could also offer an API to perform unit tests on the assembly code level. To a first instance, this project would be a convenience tool offering a good alternative to "objdump etc." and extending on the capabilities of those tools. Use cases are: Quickly seeing if a certain function contains the right vectorized code or getting a list of functions that are called from a certain function. The project can benefit from the portable ParseAPI layer which provides the API to retrieve data from executable files. Initial ideas for the tool include

  • It should be a GUI tool. Possibilities include: plugin for eclipse and/or a web application interface
  • Minimal functionality: List all functions in an executable file/library. Browse through functions. List disassembly of clicked functions. provide histograms on assembly code. Provide a configurable dashboard. Provide configurable styling on assembly code. Being extensible via a plugin-mechanism.
  • Further idea: provide static call graph (like in valgrind); provide high-level interface to unit test on assembly code ...

Requirement:Object oriented analysis; (Java) GUI development ...

Mentor: Sandro Wenzel


Here is the list of our mentors and their areas of expertise:

Contact information

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are planning to apply for any of the above projects: