Research computing courses

We offer training on a wide range of topics related to scientific programming, high-performance computing, data analysis, and visualization. These courses can take any form, from one hour to multiple days, and can be conducted online or in person.

We hold regular workshops throughout the year, including summer schools from May to August and winter schools from November to March. These workshops are traditionally hosted by universities located in southwest British Columbia (Vancouver or Victoria) and east of the Rockies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba). Additionally, some schools are taught online.

In addition to our regular events, we offer on-demand workshops and customized training.

If you would like to host a workshop, please let us know at training at westdri dot ca. We design the workshop, coordinate the preparations, advertise the event, and provide the instruction. For in-person training, we expect the host to provide an auditorium or classroom space and help with advertising the session locally. For workshops in partner institutions, we also expect the host to allow any member of the research community to attend the sessions (i.e. this may include researchers from outside your institution).

If you are seeking training for your team, or prefer to run a small, invite-only session for a select audience, please contact us at training at westdri dot ca to discuss.

All our services are free to researchers and groups from Western Canada academic institutions.

Full-day courses

Click on each course for details.

  Moving your research to Linux and command line in remote servers

This workshop is a hands-on introduction to Linux command line and the interaction with a remote server. We review basic Linux commands, file management (edit, copy, remove and remote-transfer files), directories and the file system, remote access, basic version control (Git, GitHub), Bash scripts and basic Bash programming.

  Scientific Python

This is a one- or two-day workshop introducing scientific programming in Python to beginners. We start with the basic concepts such as variables, lists, dictionaries, flow control, conditionals, loops, working with libraries, writing functions. We then go to more advanced topics such as speeding up your calculations with numpy (and working with numpy arrays in general), plotting with matplotlib or, geospatial data processing and maps with cartopy, pandas dataframes, working with images, multidimensional arrays in xarray, working with 3D multi-resolution data in yt, running Python scripts from the command line including processing arguments and standard input, and other topics.

We could customize this workshop to address your specific Python workflows.

  Introduction to HPC: using clusters to speed up your research

We start with an overview of the hardware of common HPC clusters and quick description of the resources available on Compute Canada's national systems (Cedar / Graham / Niagara / Béluga). We then continue learning the basic tools and techniques to work on a cluster: software environment and modules, overview of installed programming languages and compilers, working with makefiles and installing new software locally. Finally, we take a look at the Slurm job scheduler: why use it, fairshare and priority, submitting serial jobs and job arrays, submitting OpenMP / MPI / hybrid / GPU jobs, working inside interactive jobs, and tracking your job's memory usage. We also take a quick look at working with common packages such as R, Python and Matlab on the clusters, as well as best practices in cluster workflows.

  Introduction to scientific visualization with ParaView

We start with simple 1D/2D/3D plotting using The rest of the day we study 3D scientific visualization with ParaView, an open source, multi-platform data analysis and visualization tool designed to run on a variety of hardware from an individual laptop to large supercomputers. With ParaView users can interactively visualize 2D and 3D data sets defined on structured, adaptive and unstructured meshes or particles, animate these datasets in time, and manipulate them with a variety of filters. ParaView supports both interactive (GUI) and scripted (including offscreen) visualization, and is an easy and fun tool to learn.

  Introduction to scientific visualization with VisIt

This is a VisIt-flavoured version of the previous workshop.

  Large-scale 3D remote visualization

This is an advanced version of the ParaView-based visualization course focusing on parallel rendering, interactive client-server remote visualization, batch workflows using both cluster's CPUs and GPUs.

  3D visualization for humanities and social sciences

What would you like to do with your data in 3D? 3D visualization has been used in traditional scientific computing domains for the past several decades to visualize results of multidimensional numerical simulations. In humanities 3D visualizations have been mostly restricted to specialized areas such as game engines, architectural renderings, virtual environments, photogrammetric processing, and visualization of point cloud data — workflows that tend to use very specific tools. In this full-day course we will approach 3D visualization from a more general perspective, treating it as an extension of interactive 2D plotting into the third dimension. In the first 80% of the workshop we will teach you how to use 3D general-purpose scientific visualization tools for interactive 3D analysis of humanities data, walking through a series of simple hands-on problems designed specifically for this course. In the remaining 20% we will show you how to put these (and more general polygon-based) visualizations on the web, using state-of-the-start in-browser visualization techniques. No prior visualization experience is needed.

  Introduction to programming in Julia

R and Python are interpreted languages: an interpreter executes the code directly, without pre-compilation. This is extremely convenient: it is what allows you to type and execute code in a Python or R interactive shell. The price to pay is low performance. To overcome this limitation, researchers often use C/C++ functions for the most computation-intensive parts of their algorithms. But the need to use multiple languages and the non-interactive nature of compiled languages can make this approach somewhat tedious.

Julia uses just-in-time (JIT) compilation: the code is compiled at run time. This means that it feels like running R or Python, while it is almost as fast as C. This makes Julia particularly well suited for big data analysis, machine learning, or heavy modelling. Julia shines with its extremely clean and concise syntax making it easy to learn and really enjoyable to use.

In this workshop, which does not require any prior experience in Julia (experience in another language such as R or Python would be ideal), we will start with the basics of Julia's syntax and its packaging system, and then we will look at running Julia in parallel for large-scale problems.

  Introduction to multi-threading and multi-processing in Julia

Julia is a high-level programming language well suited for scientific computing and data science. Just-in-time compilation, among other things, makes Julia really fast yet interactive. For heavy computations, Julia supports multi-threaded and multi-process parallelism, both natively and via a number of external packages. It also supports memory arrays distributed across multiple processes either on the same or different nodes. In this hands-on workshop, we will start with a detailed look at multi-threaded programming in Julia, with many hands-on examples. We will next study multi-processing with the Distributed standard library and its large array of tools. Finally, we will work with large data structures on multiple processes using DistributedArrays and SharedArrays libraries. We will demo parallelization using several problems: a slowly converging series, a Julia set, a linear algebra solver, and an N-body solver. We will run examples on a multi-core laptop and an HPC cluster.

  Foundations of parallel programming and the Chapel programming language

This course is a general introduction to the main concepts of parallel programming and the Chapel programming language. Chapel is a relatively new language for both shared and distributed-memory programming, with easy-to-use, high-level abstractions for both task and data parallelism that make it ideal for learning parallel programming for a novice HPC user. Chapel is incredibly intuitive, striving to merge the ease-of-use of Python and the performance of traditional compiled languages such as C and Fortran. Parallel constructs that typically take tens of lines of MPI code can be expressed in only a few lines of Chapel code. Chapel is open source and can run on any Unix-like operating system, with hardware support from laptops to large HPC systems.

  Introduction to Machine Learning with PyTorch

This is a full-day workshop introducing the basic principles of machine learning and the first steps with PyTorch.

  Version control with Git

This two-day workshop introduces version control with Git and covers the most common operations. It puts a particular emphasis on explaining the functioning of Git: understanding what commands really do brings the confidence to go beyond the limited use of "add, commit, push" so common in data science fields.

  Singularity / Apptainer containers and overlays

This full-day course is a hands-on introduction to working with Singularity/Apptainer containers in an HPC environment, as well as working with data stored inside container overlays.

Shorter courses

  • Introduction to cloud computing (setting a VM in Compute Canada’s cloud)
  • Debugging
  • Memory debugging
  • In-situ visualization
  • Research data management
  • Bioinformatics workflows in HPC
  • Introduction to GPU programming with CUDA
  • Introduction to GPU programming with OpenACC
  • Parallel programing with MPI
  • Parallel programing with OpenMP
  • Volumetric visualization and data analysis with yt
  • Plotting with
  • Plotting with matplotlib
  • Automating your workflows with make
  • Code optimization
  • Introduction to shell scripting
  • Introduction and advanced topics in R programming
  • Version control of large and distributed datasets with DataLad


Join our training webinars every second Tuesday at 11am Pacific / noon Mountain. For more details, check our events.