People to Watch 2018

Jysoo Lee
Director, KAUST Supercomputing Core Labs

Longtime HPC visionary, Jysoo Lee was named Director for the KAUST Supercomputing Core Lab in 2016. At the center of this facility is Shaheen II, a 36-cabinet Cray XC40 supercomputer. Prior to this role, Lee was director of Supercomputing Center in KISTI (Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information) from 2004 to 2006 and from 2009 to 2012, and before that he was Founding Director General of NISN (National Institute of Supercomputing and Networking) in Korea for 2013 to 2014.

Lee led numerous national initiatives such as Korean National Grid Project of K*Grid and Korean National e-Science Project, and has been involved in international organizations such as the OGF (Open Grid Forum), PRAGMA (Pacific Rim Application and Grid Middleware Assembly), and GLORIAD (Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development). He was the Chief Professor for the Grid and Supercomputing Program of Korea’s University of Science and Technology.

He received a B.S. from Seoul National University in Korea and a Ph.D. from Boston University, both in physics. He was visiting scholar at Juelich Supercomputing Center in Germany, and was visiting professor at the University of California at San Diego.

HPCwire: Since launching in 2009 KAUST has risen quickly as world-leading HPC center, home to the Shaheen II supercomputer, to what do you attribute this success?

Jysoo Lee: I can think of three reasons for the University’s success: a focus on impact, people and leadership.

First, the KAUST mission is very focused on research that is impactful for the country and was willing to invest to reach this goal. We’ve gathered top faculty and students, and we’ve supported them with centralized resources such as Shaheen II, our supercomputer. When it was installed two years ago, it was ranked number seven in the world. It’s a system that is meant, not only for KAUST, but also for our partner institutions. The record-breaking simulations we ran with Saudi Aramco, for example, are helping them identify resources faster and more sustainably than ever before. The University has come to be known within the country as a resource for HPC solutions, both in terms of raw computing power, but also in support staff who are eager to help, which brings me to the second reason for the University’s success—people.

KAUST has assembled an outstanding team of experts, especially in the area of computational science. And the University has been able to attract world-class support staff with deep expertise in scientific computing. The majority of my staff worked in major supercomputing facilities before coming to KAUST.

The last part is leadership. Strong and consistent support for research infrastructure, personnel, and policy have been crucial in making progress in such a short time.

HPCwire: What is the mission of KAUST and what kinds of research are being done there?

KAUST’s mission is to advance science and technology through distinctive and collaborative research integrated with graduate education. It is a catalyst for innovation, economic development and social prosperity in Saudi Arabia and the world.

KAUST exists for the pursuit and advancement of scientific knowledge and its broad dissemination and benevolent application. It strives to enhance the welfare of society with a special focus on four areas of global significance – food, water, energy and the environment

KAUST features ten research centers to cover these areas, which are: Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center, Ali I. Al-Naimi Petroleum Engineering Research Center, Clean Combustion Research Center, Computational Bioscience Research Center, Extreme Computing Research Center, Catalysis Center, Solar Center, Red Sea Research Center, Visual Computing Center, Water Desalination and Reuse Center.

HPCwire: KAUST hosts the well-attended HPC Saudi event, with the next one coming up in March. What is the history of the event and what are its goals?

HPC Saudi is the premier regional event in the field, where participants can meet each other, share ideas and experiences, and discuss cooperation and collaboration. It is roughly an annual event, which started in 2011, and its long-term goal is to build together HPC ecosystem in the region.

Last year, KAUST hosted the seventh HPC Saudi event, which focused on coordinated efforts for the advancement of an HPC ecosystem in the Kingdom. A total of 333 people attended the event, making it the biggest conferences held at KAUST.

The first two days of the event included keynote speeches, invited talks, lightning talks, poster presentations, a vendor exhibition and an open discussion aimed at drafting an action plan for setting up an HPC ecosystem in Saudi Arabia. The third day of the conference offered eight tutorials on emerging technical topics of interest, such as advanced performance tuning and optimization offered by Intel, Cray and Nvidia. The most popular were “HPC 101,” which offered a step-by-step guide on how to use Shaheen II.

HPCwire: What do you hope to see from the HPC community in the coming year?

Last HPC Saudi conference was a great chance to observe significant HPC interests in the Kingdom. There were lots of discussions on ways to enhance its HPC ecosystem, and it was clear that KAUST can play a leading role in several of them.

Although my first priority is to serve the KAUST community, I believe that our team can also serve the need of the Kingdom with our capability and expertise. We have been “reaching out” to the Kingdom, and already have several success stories. For example, we are providing computing and consulting services to several universities, industries, and government agencies in the Kingdom.

Specifically, we had announced two world records working with Aramco — the world’s first trillion-cell reservoir simulation on October 2016, and largest scale simulation of the engineering code with ANSYS on July 2017. A couple of more are in the pipeline.

I truly believe KAUST Core Labs can do much more. With the country advancing within the Saudi Vision 2030, I can only see more opportunities there. It will be an exciting time to be here in Saudi Arabia

HPCwire: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you tell us about yourself – personal life, family, background, hobbies, etc.? Is there anything about you your colleagues might be surprised to learn?

I don’t have many hobbies, but one thing I can mention is movie watching. I started recording movies I’ve seen several years ago, and the list is currently at 574 movies. The last one I watched was a documentary called “Banking on bitcoin.”

Antonio Neri
Bob Picciano
Brett Tanzer
Dan Stanzione
Diane Bryant
Doug Kothe
Earl Joseph
Frederick Kohout
Ian Colle
Jysoo Lee
Marc Hamilton
Ralph McEldowney
Rick Stevens
Scott Aylor
Trish Damkroger

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