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Trish Damkroger

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Trish Damkroger

Trish Damkroger
Deputy Associate Director of Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); General Chair of SC14

Trish Damkroger is the Deputy Associate Director of Computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). She was also selected to be the General Chair of the HPC industry’s beloved Supercomputing Conference – SC14 – which will take place in New Orleans this November. As virtually everyone knows, economic and governmental budgeting issues have presented significant challenges to the HPC space across the board, and the SC Conference is no exception. Trish and her SC14 colleagues will have their hands full as they work to ensure that the New Orleans edition of the SC series goes off without a hitch. HPCwire caught up with Trish to talk about the challenges she faces and discover more about who she is and what she’s up to.

HPCwire: Hello Trish. You’ve been with LLNL for over a decade now, starting as a Software Quality Manager and Computation Division Leader and working your way up the chain to the Deputy Associate Director for Computation Directorate leading the Computing Applications and Research Department. Can you give us a peek into your world – what you’re doing there, and what we might see from your group in 2014?

Trish Damkroger: I am really fortunate to work at the Laboratory. One of the lab’s core strengths is computation. So you see computation and data analytics in all the different programs across the lab. So I have people supporting things like discovering nuclear fusion at the National Ignition Facility, or simulating combat situations for war fighters, or even down to understanding basic principles of dislocation in materials.

So the organization I manage is spread across the whole laboratory is responsible for writing the code for these programs, understanding the fundamental mathematics and computer science issues, and running the simulations on our Top 500 machine. So I expect you’ll see Lawrence Livermore continue to advance the state of the art in the computing architecture, especially through the CORAL procurement. We are always exploring better ways of extracting information from the huge amounts of data, and also improving the performance on our current architectures.

HPCwire: You’ve been selected as the General Chair of SC14, taking place in New Orleans this year. You’ve been a part of the SC committee for some time now – almost a decade. Can you talk about the changes you’ve seen with the SC Conference in that time, and in particular the challenges that the conference has faced the last few years with the Great Recession and such things as “The Sequester” coming to bear.

Trish Damkroger: Luckily the Great Recession has not had a huge impact on the SC conference. We were really worried about it, but we continued to grow both our technical program attendance and the number of exhibitors on the floor. In fact, we’re struggling to keep up with the number of submissions we’re getting. It just grows every year in our tech papers and other elements in our technical program, which requires us to grow our volunteer staff even larger to review all of these submissions.

I do worry about the U.S. government agencies that have not been able to participate, or have decreased their participation a lot through the travel restrictions and the budgetary constraints. I’m concerned about the overall health of the size of technology in the US, but luckily for SC, we have continued to grow, like I said. Denver was our second largest SC ever. Seattle was the largest, but Denver was number two.

HPCwire: We’ve seen that the theme for the SC14 conference will be “HPC Matters.” Can you talk about why this theme was chosen, and what it means?

Trish Damkroger: This is kind of a personal reason and I think just from my position at Lawrence Livermore – I want to get people excited about supercomputing. It’s so hard for our kids and society to understand – to visualize what computing really does and the impact it has. I mean my daughter who is 16 thinks I have the most boring job in the world. She doesn’t understand how computing impacts scientific discovery every day – or truly impacts her life and the economy.

I want to excite the next generation to imagine a career in computing science – to know that high performance computing impacts airplane design, and car design, and even diaper design. What was exhibited at SC ten years ago, no you’re holding in your cell phone. I really want people to understand the importance of high performance computing and get excited about it.

HPCwire: On a more intimate level, can you talk about your personal life – your family, background, hobbies?

Trish Damkroger: My hobbies include horseback riding (my horse is a beautiful palomino named Touch), travel and reading. I have a 19 year old son and a 16 year old daughter who are both in school (college and high school). We live in beautiful downtown Livermore, California with 53 interesting wineries to try. And yes, we do try.

I am one of 3 children, the only girl, and the middle child. We were all encouraged to follow in Dad’s footsteps as an engineer and go to college to become engineers ourselves. And to his everlasting credit, we all did.

I feel fortunate that I work at a national lab where we work with the best computers and other experimental facilities where you literally get to learn something new every day. And the minds that inhabit the Lab are first rate in every aspect. Some of the finest in the world, which makes it a very special place to work. In fact, a strong passion of mine is developing and situating people so they can express their talent and succeed beyond even their own hopes.

HPCwire: One last question – is there anything about yourself that you can share that you think your colleagues would be surprised to learn?

Trish Damkroger: Being technical and having technical degrees – about a year ago I decided to become a certified executive coach. So I went to a certification program through the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and it has completely changed my outlook on life. So I’m now teaching communication and coaching classes at the university level and doing executive coaching on the side, and what I’m finding is even through I’ve increased the number of hours I work, I think I’m more energized than I’ve ever been for my day job, so it really helps.