William D. (Bill) Gropp

HPCwire's People to Watch 2013

William D. (Bill) Gropp

William D. (Bill) Gropp
Director of the Parallel Computing Institute, Deputy Director for Research, Institute of Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies, Director, Paul and Cynthia Saylor Professor of Computer Science, Computer Science Department

As this year’s reining General Chair for SC13, Gropp-watching is on the rise. Considering last year’s sudden pull out by the national labs and the government agencies, how Gropp recoups the losses, his selection for keynote, even the theme for this year’s conference (big data and/or exascale?) has been a subject for speculation ever since his appointment was announced. Upon closer examination, it’s pretty apparent why he’s the point person for setting the 2013 conference back on track.

Gropp received his B.S. in Mathematics from Case Western Reserve University in 1977, a MS in Physics from the University of Washington in 1978, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford in 1982. He held the positions of assistant (1982-1988) and associate (1988-1990) professor in the Computer Science Department at Yale University. In 1990, he joined the Numerical Analysis group at Argonne, where he was a Senior Computer Scientist in the Mathematics and Computer Science Division, a Senior Scientist in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Chicago, and a Senior Fellow in the Argonne-Chicago Computation Institute.

From 2000 through 2006, he was also Deputy Director of the Mathematics and Computer Science Division at Argonne. In 2007, he joined the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the Paul and Cynthia Saylor Professor in the Department of Computer Science. In 2008, Gropp was appointed Deputy Director for Research for the Institute of Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies at the University of Illinois. In 2011, he became the founding Director of the Parallel Computing Institute.

Gropp’s research interests focus upon parallel computing, software for scientific computing, and numerical methods for partial differential equations. He is widely acknowledged as playing a major role in the development of the MPI message-passing standard. He is co-author of the most widely used implementation of MPI, MPICH, and was involved in the MPI Forum as a chapter author for MPI-1, MPI-2, and MPI-3.

Gropp has written many books and papers on MPI including “Using MPI” and “Using MPI-2”. He is also one of the designers of the PETSc parallel numerical library, and has developed efficient and scalable parallel algorithms for the solution of linear and nonlinear equations. Gropp is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, and SIAM and received the Sidney Fernbach Award from the IEEE Computer Society in 2008. Gropp is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is general chair for SC13, the premier conference in HPC.

To keep his work/life scale in balance, one of Gropp’s favorite hobbies is fine scale modeling –everything from sailing ships to starships. Cooking, especially desserts, is a favorite pastime, and reading – everything from history to science fiction to fantasy. His latest favorite is “The Odd Clauses”, a delightful book on the unusual clauses in the US constitution (and I bet you never thought constitutional law could be so fun to read!).

Bill’s Top 5 HPC initiatives or technologies to watch in 2013:

  • Software and standards – OpenACC – will it be good enough to displace CUDA as one of the most popular parallel programming languages?
  • Algorithms – FFTs had a great run, but significant scaling issues. Will alternatives, using more computation and communication efficient methods such as the fast multipole method, go mainstream?
  • Tilting at windmills – Most uses of the term “domain specific” are misleading – what is really meant is more like “algorithm and abstract data structure specific” (this is particularly true of so-called Domain specific languages). The distinction is important.
  • Exascale and Extreme Scale on a global level.
  • SC13 – On it’s 25th anniversary, SC will again rule as the place to see what’s hot in HPC, trust me on this one.

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