[email protected] and a Tale of Four Unicorns

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

September 8, 2017

This will be STEM-Trek’s third year to support a workshop during the annual supercomputing conference, or SC. This year’s program is titled “Understanding Risk in Shared Cyberecosystems,” or [email protected]. We’re collaborating with Von Welch who leads the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure at Indiana University, and specialists from the South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC).

We acknowledge that universities struggle to provide professional staff with conference-related travel and advanced training opportunities. Therefore, early-career professionals who work as campus technology facilitators or sysadmins at regional-serving public universities in the U.S. and Africa are invited to apply for travel support by Sept. 11, 2017.

Our SC co-located workshops have had NSF and private support. This year we are thankful that Google is helping, but we’re still fundraising to bridge gaps—flight costs are likely to increase due to petro industry damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and we would love to support a larger cohort. Anyone interested in helping may contact [email protected].

As for return on investment, some prospective donors might think this demographic represents weak sales potential. Few are in the market for new systems or services since they operate on a shoestring; some support hardware that’s ten or more years old with no replacement in sight. What keeps them up at night? Most say it’s a challenge to keep older hardware running, they can’t afford or take time off to train, they don’t have enough time for outreach and education, and everyone struggles with cybersecurity.

What prospective donors may not realize is that the demographic we support represents industry growth in important and often new directions. This might be more difficult to understand for those who haven’t worked with this community as long as we have (I have 13 years of experience with campus tech/10 years global HPC external relations/5 years with African projects). Some are building new centers from scratch, and local advocacy often rises to meet unique regional industry needs. Once trained, many relocate to find better-paying jobs with academic, government or commercial facilities that appreciate their resourcefulness and creativity. I call them “unicorn-generalists” who are likely to become lead decision-makers in the $44 billion HPC industry.1

I can think of many unicorn-generalist examples, but I’ll share four today.

Nick Thorne (standing) was the lead trainer at the CHPC in Cape Town, and now works as a research engineer with the Large Scale HPC Group at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

When I met Thorne in 2012, he was laser-focused on building CHPC Director Happy Sithole’s vision. Dr. Sithole understands the importance of student development and international outreach better than anyone I know. Thorne contributed substantially to the CHPC Advanced Computer Engineering Lab’s effort to establish a student cluster competition for South African universities to compete in. This project, aimed at SA human capital development, allowed a winning team to represent SA at the annual International Supercomputing Conference Student Cluster Competition in Germany. SA has placed first or second at ISC since they began to compete in 2014. Thorne also supported the Southern African Development Community (SADC) CHPC Ecosystems project (map, below) that began with donated decommissioned hardware (part of TACC’s Ranger system, and another donated by University of Cambridge). He supervised the refurbishing, distribution and cluster installation at five national and three international sites; the five in SA support student cluster teams and light research. Thorne possesses the rare combination of interpersonal, diplomatic and technical aptitude which makes him a good director candidate. It wouldn’t surprise me if someday Thorne becomes the TACC director (give him another 15-20 years—he’s young, and so is TACC Director Dan Stanzione).

When I first met Chungu Ngolwe (tallest, center back row), he worked as a systems engineer for ZAMREN, Zambia’s national research and education network. As project leader for the setup of Eduroam for the Zambian Federation, he facilitated workshops on campus network design, routing, switching and Eduroam before assuming the role as ZAMREN’s HPC sysadmin.

Ngolwe attended several workshops that STEM-Trek and CHPC supported between 2012 and 2016, and I have always been impressed with his motivation and enthusiasm. Following a brief interview in 2016, I suggested he might consider specializing in cybersecurity (that epiphany had to do with questions he asked, and his personal interests). With a small child at home, I knew night classes would be inconvenient, so I shared a link to the collection of free or low-cost online instructional materials listed on our web site—training he could pursue in his spare time. My hunch must have been correct. I recently learned that Ngolwe left ZAMREN and now supports cybersecurity for Copperbelt Energy Corporation, one of the largest energy providers on the African continent.

As a high school junior who grew up in South African townships, Zama Mtshali stood at a crossroads. Her grades were excellent, so she knew she would be college-bound. Unfortunately, she didn’t know what to study. With a University of Cape Town prospectus in hand, she searched for academic tracks that would provide her with employable skills. It was her goal to support herself and her family in the future. One sister is a soap opera actress, and her brothers have professional jobs, but none work in STEM fields. No one influenced Mtshali to pursue computer science, but she read where mathematical aptitude was helpful—and she loved math! This was the decision-tree that ultimately led Mtshali to her current role as a sysadmin for the largest HPC system for open research on the African continent, Lengau (which means “Cheetah” in the Tswana language; the fastest animal in the world).

Mtshali has great role models since many women hold leadership positions in South African government science and technology divisions (and throughout the SADC region). She also has encouragement and support from CHPC Director Happy Sithole, and the respect of fellow CHPC sysadmins. STEM-Trek is committed to increasing workforce diversity, but we’re often disappointed by the small number of women who apply for travel support to attend HPC workshops; they are the rarest unicorns! When it becomes normalized for women everywhere to sit in the HPC “bullpen,” we expect more will follow Mtshali’s footsteps.

Scott Yockel (Interim Director of Research Computing, Harvard University) is one of many U.S. success stories. We invited Yockel to talk about Harvard’s new green data center at the HPC on Common Ground @SC16 workshop (OCG).

While STEM-Trek can’t take credit for Yockel’s career trajectory, his path has not been unlike many who participate in our workshops. He grew up in Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma Baptist University where he earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry before completing his graduate degree at the University of North Texas. As a computational chemist, he returned to UNT to manage their HPC facility before accepting a position at Harvard.

Even though Texas isn’t an EPSCoR state (NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), and UNT benefits from urban cultural and employment opportunities found in nearby Dallas, as an undergrad his HPC career was influenced by training programs offered by EPSCoR XSEDE partners in Oklahoma (NSF Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment). He could therefore relate to OCG participants, and recognizes that they’re also driven, resourceful, creative, and mobile. They must be all of these things in order to succeed, and many do!

To learn more about STEM-Trek and to follow [email protected], please visit our website.

1 EnterpriseTech report, June 21, 2017, “Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44 billion by 2021,”accessed Sept. 6, 2017

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Talk to Me: Nvidia Claims NLP Inference, Training Records

August 15, 2019

Nvidia says it’s achieved significant advances in conversation natural language processing (NLP) training and inference, enabling more complex, immediate-response interchanges between customers and chatbots. And the co Read more…

By Doug Black

Trump Administration and NIST Issue AI Standards Development Plan

August 14, 2019

Efforts to develop AI are gathering steam fast. On Monday, the White House issued a federal plan to help develop technical standards for AI following up on a mandate contained in the Administration’s AI Executive Order Read more…

By John Russell

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a good understanding of the early universe, its fate billions Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AWS Solution Channel

Efficiency and Cost-Optimization for HPC Workloads – AWS Batch and Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

High Performance Computing on AWS leverages the power of cloud computing and the extreme scale it offers to achieve optimal HPC price/performance. With AWS you can right size your services to meet exactly the capacity requirements you need without having to overprovision or compromise capacity. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the combined power of HPC and AI to your business transformation

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Cloudy with a Chance of Mainframes

[Connect with HPC users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

Rapid rates of change sometimes result in unexpected bedfellows. Read more…

Argonne Supercomputer Accelerates Cancer Prediction Research

August 13, 2019

In the fight against cancer, early prediction, which drastically improves prognoses, is critical. Now, new research by a team from Northwestern University – and accelerated by supercomputing resources at Argonne Nation Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AI is the Next Exascale – Rick Stevens on What that Means and Why It’s Important

August 13, 2019

Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) was just beginning to explore what an exascale computing program might look like and what it might accomplish. Today, DOE is repeating that process for AI, once again starting with science community town halls to gather input and stimulate conversation. The town hall program... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader and John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Drives Single-Socket Servers with AMD Epyc Rome CPUs

August 7, 2019

No summer doldrums here. As part of the AMD Epyc Rome launch event in San Francisco today, Lenovo announced two new single-socket servers, the ThinkSystem SR635 Read more…

By Doug Black

Building Diversity and Broader Engagement in the HPC Community

August 7, 2019

Increasing diversity and inclusion in HPC is a community-building effort. Representation of both issues and individuals matters - the more people see HPC in a w Read more…

By AJ Lauer

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

Upcoming NSF Cyberinfrastructure Projects to Support ‘Long-Tail’ Users, AI and Big Data

August 5, 2019

The National Science Foundation is well positioned to support national priorities, as new NSF-funded HPC systems to come online in the upcoming year promise to Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center/XSEDE

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive

June 7, 2019

Investors are zeroing in on the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture and the processor intellectual property being developed by a batch of high-flying chip startups. Last fall, Esperanto Technologies announced a $58 million funding round. Read more…

By George Leopold

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This