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East Tennessee Researchers launch new ACM Special Interest Group for HPC, data

SIGHPC-ASCAN Chair and ORNL Distinguished Research Scientist Neena Imam.

East Tennessee has long been a regional powerhouse for high-performance computing (HPC) thanks to the combined mind share and facilities of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee system.

ORNL is the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory and has stood up three of the world’s fastest computers, and just down the road the University of Tennessee likewise boasts an exceptional HPC pedigree.

Along with its National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS), the University’s Innovative Computing Laboratory (ICL), founded by Jack Dongarra in 1989, is an internationally recognized research group specializing in numerical linear algebra, distributed computing, and performance evaluation and benchmarking.

To further the collaboration that has developed among these organizations, a group of East Tennessee computing researchers, including ORNL staff and University of Tennessee faculty, has formed the first chapter of an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group for HPC in Accelerated Scalable Computing and ANalytics, or SIGHPC-ASCAN.

According to the organization’s website, ACM is the “world’s largest educational and scientific computing society” and “brings together computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges.” ACM’s Special Interest Groups aim to advance innovation in computing’s major subfields via networking, continued education, and numerous other functions.

SIGHPC-ASCAN was formed with the belief that bringing together expertise in the arenas of scalability, hybrid computing with co-processors, and data analytics will expedite innovation across the computing and data analytics domains.

“Scalable computing not only enables science via simulations at unprecedented size and precision, but it’s also a  technological driver for the computing ecosystem,” said SIGHPC-ASCAN Chair and ORNL Distinguished Research Scientist Neena Imam. “While SIGHPC-ASCAN was established by east Tennessee scientists, we invite the broader HPC community to join our cause and become ambassadors for the chapter.”

Thus far the group, which became official on June 1 and is a virtual chapter like other SIGHPC chapters, has 27 members representing institutions across the region including the University of Tennessee–Knoxville (UTK), the University of Tennessee–Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, and others.

The chapter is the brainchild of Jeff Nichols, ORNL’s Associate Laboratory Director for Computing and Computational Sciences.

“An alliance with an ACM professional society opens up enormous professional development opportunities for the region’s immense talent,” said Nichols. “At the same time, these development opportunities benefit professional societies, and computing as a whole, by growing future society fellows and leaders throughout the high-performance computing community.”

The organization has three overarching goals:

  • Knowledge Exchange—sharing knowledge and technical context among members and activities such as flash talks, distinguished speaker seminar/webinars, regional conferences, and vendor presentations.
  • Workforce Development—sharing HPC expertise with students as well as professionals in related spheres and activities such as hackathons, training sessions, and mentorships.
  • Community Building—developing professional and personal rapport and activities such as an awards committee, social meet-up-style networking, and a shared web presence.

SIGHPC-ASCAN is also devoted to promoting diversity and makes a dedicated effort to be inclusive.

"Scalable computing has moved from a niche area of computer science to being front and center in the advancement of scientific discovery with huge benefits to society over the past 30 years,” said SIGHPC-ASCAN Vice Chair and Professor of Computer Science and Chair of Excellence at UT-Chattanooga Tony Skjellum. “Our ACM SIG will help advance  scalable computing in our region and beyond."

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