Parallel Perspectives: HPC Internships Educate and Inspire 

By Christine Baissac-Hayden

April 4, 2024

As an undergraduate Sophomore at the University of ChicagoJoey Lin embarked on a journey to explore how an internship opportunity involving high-performance computing (HPC) could enhance her coding proficiency. That choice helped Lin recognize the important role internships play in shaping one’s professional trajectory, aligning with individual choices, values, and aspirations. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/joey-lin-981001197/

As a student wishing for a platform to learn and make a genuine impact, Lin was drawn to smaller-sized firms where she could gain a comprehensive understanding of the industry. Lin discovered Parallel Works through her university, a company that creates customized HPC platforms for workflow automation solutions. Parallel Works resonated with Lin’s goals and values, offering an ideal opportunity to shape her path.

Parallel Path

At Parallel Works, the mission is crystal clear: to democratize HPC through accessibility and simplicity. Traditional transitions between cloud HPC providers often entail grappling with new systems, codes, and pathways, complicating the process. Parallel Works simplifies this experience by offering users the flexibility to choose from various cloud HPC providers, ensuring that clusters tailored to their specific needs are readily available and accessible when required. Moreover, through dynamic provisioning and intelligent workload management, users can scale their computational tasks according to their specific requirements while maintaining control over expenditure and budget constraints.

Parallel Works is also deeply committed to educating and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders through paid internship opportunities. Positions are advertised on Handshake at the University of Chicago, giving students a two-week window to apply. After this period, the University of Chicago directly forwards the applications to the companies. With 53 candidates, Parallel Works implemented an internal scoring system to identify and interview qualifying applicants. Successful candidates also took a skill assessment test. Once vetted, interns were assigned to one of Parallel Works’s teams: business, workflow development, systems, or core platform development. Recognizing the value of time, particularly for a small enterprise, Parallel Works embraces internships as a company philosophy. Everyone at the organization mobilizes to ensure interns have a beneficial experience, organizing activities such as Huddles on Slack, “Intern Sync Fridays,” and targeted “teaching sessions” to address identified hurdles and foster professional growth.

Lin valued the initiative taken by Stefan Gary, Senior Application Engineer and Computational Scientist at Parallel Works, who taught sessions on “Bash” scripting for interns. Recognizing that students are frequently not familiar with traditional unix shells, despite their proficiency in languages like Python and JavaScript, Gary aimed to bridge this gap. He found that starting with these teaching sessions fostered camaraderie among interns, leveling the playing field and facilitating collective learning.

Parallel Action

Lin was assigned to Parallel Works’s Systems team under the mentorship of Matthew Long, Site Reliability and Support Engineer. Long took Lin under his wing and tasked her with crash-testing Parallel Works’s system. 

“Joey’s mission was to improve our automated testing and benchmarking to aid quality assurance,” Long explained. “I established a workflow that runs a series of predefined tests on a cluster to gauge performance and reliability of the system. She was responsible for taking that framework and expanding it.” 

Parallel Works Benchmarking) Work Flow (Source Christine Baissac)

Lin’s responsibilities extended to wrapping the workflow into a GitHub automation that could be launched on demand, as well as broadening the scope of tests to include additional benchmarks. Despite her limited prior experience with HPC systems, Lin quickly familiarized herself with the fundamentals, including submitting batch jobs to a Slurm scheduler and using the shared software stack via environment modules (Lmod) to ensure software functionality. She also gained firsthand experience configuring, provisioning, and testing Lustre file systems attached to the clusters and incorporated parallel file system benchmarking into her workflow. Additionally, Lin introduced iperf, a network performance tool, to the test suite to validate TCP/IP network performance on the cluster. Finally, she wrote a program to download the test results and generate graph visualizations, showcasing her comprehensive approach to quality assurance and system enhancement.

Parallel Works github action to automate benchmarking a cluster. (Source Christine Baissac)

Together for the Win

To conclude their internship, the interns shared their work during the final huddle. Michael Wilde, CEO and founder of Parallel Works, shared that this was well attended by the entire company and said, “It was a great opportunity for the interns to hone their presentation skills and also stimulated a lot of great discussion among the whole team, as the interns were often doing “forward-looking work” that everyone else was keenly interested in.”

Lin’s work exemplifies the workflow she detailed, which remains integral to Parallel Works’s ongoing processes.

Internships such as Lin’s provide a win-win opportunity for both students and enterprises. Students have the opportunity to learn and test their preferences and competencies, while companies have the opportunity to groom potential future workforce, nurturing talent that aligns with their vision and goals.

 

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