Sophors Khut ’14
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Computer Science

Sophors Khut spent his summer researching parallel computing, troubleshooting software, and writing an e-book resource for computer science students at Macalester and elsewhere. While doing so, he worked with computer science professor Libby Shoop and a computational cluster called LittleFe.

To increase the speed of computing, computer scientists are developing cluster computers, in which the head “node” or computer distributes the work to other computers in the cluster, then accumulates the results.

Interested in learning more about this burgeoning area of computer science, Khut applied for a position working on Shoop’s project. Shoop is active in the Educational Alliance for a Parallel Future (EAPF), which seeks to bring competency in parallel programming from research labs to the classroom.

LittleFe is a unit of six motherboards networked to operate as a single cluster computer. Massive computer clusters are known as “Big Iron,” and Fe is the symbol for the element iron. The suitcase-sized LittleFe represents a smaller, more affordable unit on which students can learn parallel programming.

Khut then began writing instructional materials for two modules to be used in the Computer System Organization course at Macalester.

“When I started, we installed new software on LittleFe, then did troubleshooting for a week,” says Khut. “One basic thing we realized was that we needed more fans to cool six processors working so fast, so close together.” Khut did many hours of Internet research to educate himself about parallel computing. He then began writing instructional materials for two modules to be used in the Computer System Organization course at Macalester—and made broadly available to any professor or student who wants them.

Fortunately, Khut is adept at independently plunging into new material and situations. As a student in Cambodia, he repeatedly traveled six hours from his home province to Phnom Penh to take the competitive entrance exams for the United World Colleges. One of only a handful of students selected from Cambodia, he attended the UWC in Norway for two years before coming to Macalester.

This summer has been a great way to build toward his goals while writing materials to help other students, says Khut. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s been great to enjoy the Twin Cities in the summer while holding an interesting, paid research position.”

Sophors Khut is one of Macalester’s Davis United World College Scholars.

December 3 2012

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