Building Diversity and Broader Engagement in the HPC Community

By AJ Lauer

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 way they can relate to, the more likely they will come to the field. To make this community available to anyone who might want to participate we must continue to create formal programs to welcome people in, show them the usefulness of HPC or how HPC can benefit them, and develop meaningful relationships to provide support and everyday visibility.

Creating systemic and structural changes to develop the inclusive culture in HPC requires individual and organizational effort that should be championed, funded, and appreciated. Institutional efforts often come in the form of policy and procedural changes, but individual endeavours can come in many forms. Below we highlight five individuals who are building our community one mentoring relationship, iphone app, and data analysis at a time.

Christine Harvey – Lead High Performance and Analytic Computing Engineer, MITRE Corporation, & Chair, SC20 Students @SC Program

Christine leads all aspects of the MITRE corporation’s high performance computing operations including procurement, system management, and daily operations. In this role she works with users and research teams to provide the right systems and to educate staff on how to use those systems.

Christine’s first exposure to the world of high performance computing was at SC10 in New Orleans, which she attended with her college. Christine was a student volunteer at SC10, and has been working with the Students@SC program in various ways ever since. Students@SC is the largest student-focused program in high performance computing. The SC19 program will have 175 student volunteers working over 1,500 hours at conference events. Student volunteers come from a variety of educational and social backgrounds and are selected for their interest in HPC, enthusiasm for the conference, and potential to benefit from participation. The 164 student volunteers for SC18 represented 38 countries, with 61 first generation college students, and 108 attending SC18 for the first time as a volunteer. In addition, nearly 40 percent of student volunteers were women, reflecting the growth of female representation within the SC community. Benefits to volunteering include free housing during the conference, which goes a long way toward making SC accessible to students who may want to attend.

Nihanth Cherukuru – Project Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Augmented reality is Nihanth Cherukuru’s chosen mode to aid scientific understanding, improve the accessibility of visualizations and exhibits, and encourage public participation in HPC and STEM fields. He works in the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory at NCAR where he focuses on optimizing AR/VR mobile apps, UX design, and investigating the creative use of these technologies to increase accessibility, usability, and effectiveness of AR/VR applications. He hopes to use the immersiveness of AR/VR technology and the affordability of smartphone-based applications to lower the barrier of access to NCAR’s science for both the general public and individuals with visual impairments. His free Meteo-AR app, which allows users to experience visualizations of NCAR datasets on an augmented reality globe, has had nearly 13,000 unique installs. While AR is often thought of as a purely visual tool, Nihanth is exploring how the technologies behind AR such as marker detection and tracking could be used to augment physical surroundings with audio cues. These cues can provide an alternate way to interact with visual data such as museum exhibits that may increase accessibility for individuals with visual impairments. When released, an app based on this concept will allow museum and exhibit directors to tag their facilities with audio cues which will allow people with visual impairments to navigate the space and learn more about the material being presented. Nihanth also serves as a mentor in the Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Sciences (SIParCS) program at NCAR, which has a goal of increasing the diversity of the HPC workforce. As an alumni of the program, he enjoys working with students who aspire to use HPC to have a positive impact on the world.

Rosalia Gomez –  Education and Outreach Manager, Research Engineering/Scientist Associate IV – Texas Advanced Computing Center, Executive Committee Member – ACM SIGHPC Computing4Change & XSEDE Advanced Computing for Social Change, Champions Board member – Texas Girls Collaborative Project

Rosalia’s passion for increasing diversity and inclusion in HPC stems from a formative early experience with the upward bound math/science program, which sparked her interest in STEM. She works to create such transformative experiences for others like her. In her role as Education and Outreach Manager at TACC, she has grown programs from the ground up, developing and facilitating activities that bring HPC to diverse students and members of the community. Rosalia’s efforts include participation in the XSEDE Broadening Participation program, the National Science Foundation funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) Site at TACC, the NSF INCLUDES: SPICE program, and Advanced Computing for Social Change (ACSC)/Computing4Change (C4C). In the ACSC/C4C programs, students learn data science skills and apply them to societal problems that matter to them, like violence or local issues. This fosters greater enthusiasm and makes learning computational science more engaging. By intentionally recruiting and engaging students that have also been historically underrepresented in STEM careers, Rosalia hopes to increase participation and their ability to see themselves in HPC.

Ruby MendenhallAssociate Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign & Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation, Carle Illinois College of Medicine

Ruby Mendenhall’s career and research are dedicated to promoting equality for underrepresented individuals. Her research highlights the important role that accurate data can play in increasing representation. Ruby’s curiosity about using big data in social science research was ignited during an outreach presentation by Kevin Franklin from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. This presentation and subsequent conversations guided her in her use of data science technology to study Black women and social inequality. Through a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Computing and Technology and NCSA, Ruby and a team of researchers analyzed 800,000 documents dated 1746 – 2014 to learn about the lived experiences of Black women, including the ways in which they challenged social inequality. She used topic modeling to analyze themes about African American women; then used those themes to recover previously unidentified documents. HPC allowed Ruby and her team to sift through unusual texts such as essays and diaries, often written by individuals other than Black women, to uncover important historical information. To date Ruby and her team have been able to identify and metatag nearly 3,500 documents that were previously unidentified as being by or about Black women. This significant increase in available documentation will allow social scientists and humanists to gather more knowledge about Black women and center their lived experiences and previously unheard voices in the historical records.

Wendy Wilhelm – Engineering Manager, HPC Integration Team, Intel Corporation & Intel Native American Network Oregon Executive Sponsor

Wendy Wilhelm manages a diverse team that integrates, validates, and debugs Intel hardware. As an engineering manager at Intel, she and her team are responsible for building small-scale, end-user style HPC systems using internally-developed test suites and open-source workloads and benchmarks. She and her team use their knowledge of hardware and software systems to provide pre- and post-silicon feedback.

Wendy is a firm believer in supporting various minority groups in high tech. She participates in programs such as Women in Intel, Oregon Leadership Conference (targeted at the underrepresented minority community), is the Oregon Executive Sponsor of the Intel Native American Network, and her team is currently 32 percent female and 41 percent underrepresented minorities including women, Native Americans, Latinx, and African Americans. Wendy is also one of the founders of the Women in HPC social (formerly the Intel women’s night at SC).

Wendy’s work in diversity and inclusion also includes developing meaningful mentoring relationships with individuals from all backgrounds. She believes in paying forward her own mentoring experience by mentoring employees across the globe, and is also currently a mentor to two women through the Women in HPC mentoring program. Wendy says she has mentored more individuals than she can remember, and this skill at mentoring pays off. Most of the people that come to her team do so never having worked on an HPC system before, and many go on to establish careers as HPC professionals in other roles.

About the Author

As the lead for the Outreach, Diversity, and Education team in the Computational & Information Systems Lab at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, AJ Lauer (Twitter, LinkedIn) directs the Summer Internships in Parallel Computational Sciences (SIParCS) program and works with her team and labmates to create outreach efforts that inspire future generations of HPC users. She is a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Leadership EdD program at Creighton University where her dissertation work will focus on gender and leadership in HPC.

 

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