Researcher Trains Students on Advanced Cyberinfrastructure with MATCH

By Megan Johnson, NCSA
A picture of a team connecting pieces of gears together. Teamwork and integration concept.

Researchers who need High-Performance-Computing resources are able to find them in abundance in the ACCESS program. These free-to-use resources are available to anyone conducting open science research, but the idea of using these resources might be intimidating for researchers with little to no experience in research computing. In ACCESS’s ongoing series on the MATCH program, you’ll see how a variety of researchers have come to rely upon the support of student-mentor teams who will guide them through using High-Performance Computing resources with ease.

One of the many uses of an ACCESS allocation is to bring cyberinfrastructure into a classroom to train students. As the scope of research projects grows large enough to require the use of supercomputing resources to complete them, the need to train researchers in the use of these tools becomes paramount. Bernadette Boscoe, a computer science professor at Southern Oregon University (SOU) is making sure her students are well-prepared for a future with CI.

Boscoe planned to have her students set up a server and deploy a MERN stack web application. With her ACCESS allocation, Boscoe was able to get time on Indiana University’s Jetstream2 to create virtual machines for her students to practice with. However, Boscoe was working with tight time constraints. The semester was quickly approaching, and she needed everything set up for her students by the time classes began. Unable to research and create a plan for deployment on her own with the time she had, Boscoe reached out to the MATCH program for assistance.

A picture of Mimi Pieper.

Miranda (Mimi) Pieper is a computer science student at SOU. She joined the MATCH program with a strong technical skillset but hadn’t yet been able to use a lot of her skills in a practical setting. MATCH connected her with a mentor, Sai Kiran Mukkavilli, an associate professor of computing at Georgia Southwestern State University, and with Boscoe.

Pieper began to tackle the error that Boscoe was getting by starting fresh. She broke apart the various elements required to create the virtual machines the students would be working on. This required getting to know the resources they would need to use. “ I did extensive research on the usability of Jetstream2,” said Pieper. “[I determined that] Exosphere would be the best way for professors to assign VMs to students.” Once she had this piece of the puzzle, she next worked on the MERN stack aspect of the coursework. 

“I researched how best to build a MERN stack with a fully functioning backend and a server,” said Pieper. “I selected Nginx as the best server option since it allows students to have a hands-on experience without being too difficult to understand.”

She ran into some trouble while testing her planned setup. “I set up instances on Jetstream2, which I used to test run a simple MERN app,” Pieper said. “While I was able to get it to run, I had challenges getting it to serve using Nginx, and I spent extensive time working on how to get it to serve properly.”

Eventually, Pieper solved the issues, but she knew the process might be tricky for the students to follow without the proper guidance. In order for Boscoe to teach her students, she would need robust documentation. “I spent time documenting the instructions for server setup that students can use in the future to set up a full server on the VM,” explained Pieper, “with all commands, explanations on why things work, and options for students using both Mac/Linux operating systems and Windows.”

Professor Boscoe was pleased with the outcome of her MATCH experience and Pieper’s thorough documentation. “I was able to use Mimi’s solution and course materials for my class of over 20 students this winter,” she said. “It was a huge help to me. Not only did it create coursework for me this year, but I can reuse the content created in the MATCH program for years to come.”

Match benefits everyone involved – the student included. Pieper was glad to have an opportunity to use what she’d learned in class in a practical setting. “The MATCH program greatly enhanced my understanding of research and writing of technical papers, along with technical skills like NGINX,” said Pieper. “The mentorship I received was invaluable, directly improving my technical skills and research abilities. I strongly recommend MATCH to students wanting to apply their knowledge in practical settings.”

A picture of Sai Kiran Mukkavilli.

The MATCH program is a great tool to connect people in the professional world with no contact other than the skills they have inculcated.

–Sai Mukkavilli, associate professor, computer science, Georgia Southwestern State University

Pieper also shared how positive the overall experience of working with the MATCH program was. “I was really pleased with how the project grew and evolved and how open both the researcher and my mentor were in supporting me through the unexpected challenges that arose technically with the project. I also really appreciated just how kind and understanding both the researcher (Bernie Boscoe) and my mentor (Sai Mukkavilli) were with my learning.”

If you have an ACCESS allocation and think the MATCH program could help, request an engagement here. Have questions about the program or want to better understand how you might utilize it? Please send an email to Alana Romanella, Deputy Director, ACCESS Support (

If you’d like to read about other MATCH success stories, you can find them here:
Discovering New Hydrogen Storage Materials with MATCH

Take Your Research Further with ACCESS Support’s MATCHPlus

Project Details

Resource Provider Institution(s): Indiana University (Jetstream2)
Affiliations: Southern Oregon University, Georgia Southwestern State University
Funding Agency: NSF
Grant or Allocation Number(s): CIS230199

The science story featured here was enabled by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s ACCESS program, which is supported by National Science Foundation grants #2138259, #2138286, #2138307, #2137603, and #2138296.

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