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Tourassi named associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences

Gina Tourassi. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy 

Effective Dec. 4, Gina Tourassi will assume responsibilities as associate laboratory director for the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

CCSD includes more than 500 research staff and is home to the Frontier supercomputer, the first-ever exascale computing system and currently the world’s most powerful high-performance computer dedicated to open science.

The laboratory’s AI Initiative — which was founded in 2019 to advance the state of safe, trustworthy and energy-efficient AI — as well as much of the laboratory’s quantum computing and networking research also fall under CCSD’s purview. Many of these efforts involve the Quantum Science Center, which is headquartered at ORNL. DOE established this National Quantum Information Science Research Center and four sister centers in 2020 to accelerate fundamental and applied research related to quantum computing, materials and more.

“It’s an honor to be trusted with the future of CCSD,” Tourassi said. “This is a really exciting time for quantum information science, artificial intelligence research and the post-exascale computing era, which will continue to be top priorities for the directorate in the coming days, months and years.”

Going forward, Tourassi’s priorities include cementing ORNL’s status as a leader in AI in all its forms — from computational science tools designed to speed up simulations to autonomous laboratory tools developed to streamline scientific experiments. She also expects the QSC to continue enabling breakthroughs that would not be possible without its national network of 16 interconnected institutions all dedicated to uncovering the secrets of little-known phenomena and bringing the next generation of quantum technologies to the forefront of the field.

Between overseeing these efforts, delivering the laboratory’s next supercomputer — currently known as OLCF-6 — and innovating computing for a sustainable future, Tourassi plans to cultivate and maintain a dedicated workforce of early-, mid- and senior-level staff who bring diverse expertise and perspectives to the proverbial table.

“We have incredible people in this organization, and I know they will rise to the challenge of addressing the massive scientific and technical hurdles we face while being responsible stewards of the federal investments made at our laboratory,” she said.

Tourassi joined ORNL in 2011 as director of the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Center. Since 2019, she has served as the director of ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences, which includes the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. This DOE Office of Science user facility is home to Frontier and a host of other computational resources. Before that, she led the Biomedical Sciences, Engineering and Computing group from 2016 to 2019 after founding the Health Data Sciences Institute. 

Other positions she has held in the last 12 years include University of Tennessee, Knoxville-ORNL Joint Faculty in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education; UT-ORNL joint professor in the university’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering; and adjunct professor of radiology at UT and Duke University.

Before joining ORNL, Tourassi worked in Duke’s Department of Radiology for almost 20 years after earning her doctorate in biomedical engineering there. This career path piqued her interest in computing, data science and AI for biomedicine and was the genesis of her expertise in these subjects. She received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Aristotle University in Greece.

Tourassi is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She has earned recognition for her computational research in cancer and COVID-19 through many avenues, including the DOE Secretary’s Appreciation Award and Honor Award.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit — Elizabeth Rosenthal