Erik Schnetter

Erik Schnetter

Adjunct Professor and Research Technologies Group Lead, Perimeter Institute

Contact Information

Telephone: 519-824-4120 x519-569-7600x7032


Office: Perimeter Institute



I obtained my Diplom (Physik) in 1998 from the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen, Germany. I defended my dissertation in 2003 under supervision of Prof. Dr. Hanns Ruder, also at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen. From 2003 to 2005 I was a postdoctoral scholar at the Albert-Einstein-Institut in Potsdam, Germany.

Professional Experience

I joined the Center for Computation & Technology at Louisiana State University (in Baton Rouge, LA, USA) in 2005 as Research Staff, and became Assistant Research Professor at the Department of Physics & Astronomy there in 2008. In 2010, I accepted a position as Research Technologies Group Lead at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (in Waterloo, ON, Canada), and became Adjunct Faculty at the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph in 2011.

Research Activities

My research interests lie in computational science, in using computers as tools to solve scientific and engineering problems. This requires not only correctly (and efficiently) implemented physics models, but also requires tools to build complete applications around these models. For example:

  • Tools for communication and collaboration, in particular for small, informal collaboration and for software development,
  • Efficient computational infrastructure, ranging from laptops to large-scale systems, allowing people to easily build their own applications from existing modules, and to publish such modules,
  • Reducing the steep learning curve for high-performance computing (HPC) by making HPC calculations more transparent and more interactive,
  • Interacting with and educating scientists about best practices in scientific computing.

In high performance computing (HPC), I research ways to harness the computing power of current (and future) HPC systems, and making their power available to end users and programmers, so that these systems can be applied towards solving scientific and engineering problems. It is unfortunate that such systems are notoriously difficult to use, and their architecture and programming models change as hardware advances and becomes more powerful.
I use software frameworks as vehicle to implement ideas, test them in realistic environments, and ensure they work together. Frameworks allow application scientists to create large, complex multi-physics applications by coupling independently developed modules. It is important to find abstractions which lead to an overall modular structure while permitting efficient couplings between modules, and to have clear boundaries between application science parts and high performance computing parts.
In addition to the above, I have a long-standing interest in relativistic astrophysics, and I maintain close collaborations with researchers at Louisiana State University, Caltech, and the Albert-Einstein-Institut in Germany. In these collaborations I study compact objects such as black holes, neutron stars, or core collapse supernovae.