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HPCwire's People to Watch 2006

I can't remember a past year when the HPC community has seemed so active—or had so much transition. A changing of the guard has been evident as a new generation of HPC stakeholders assume increasing levels of responsibility and ownership.

The boundaries of HPC have become somewhat seamless. You can no longer measure the size of an HPC system by the amount of cabinets sitting in a computer room. Virtualization, clusters, advanced networking, and Grids are among just a few of the factors now shaping and driving the HPC landscape.

Our annual list of the HPCwire "People to Watch" recognizes the most influential, interesting and promising personalities having an impact on the world of High Performance Computing. You'll see some names who have been here before—and you'll meet some new personalities who have been recognized by their peers as people to watch. The names on this list have been nominated by a selection committee that includes past "People to Watch" as well as a long list of advisors for the publication.

Please join us in congratulating the HPCwire "People to Watch" for 2006.

Tom Tabor

Dan Atkins | Jay Boris | Keith Gray | Robert Graybill | John Grosh | Maria Klawe | Ed Leonard | Henry Markram | Tommy Minyard
Henry Neeman | Steve Parker | Reza Rooholamini | Jonathan Schwartz | John West | Stephen Wheat | Kathy Yelick

Atkins, Dan
Office of Cyberinfrastructure, National Science Foundation

Dan Atkins

Why he's worth watching: This month, Dan Atkins will start his position as the Director of the Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) with the National Science Foundation (NSF). In this post, he will oversee the organization as it works to support the acquisition, development and provision of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure resources, tools, and services essential to the conduct of 21st Century science and engineering research and education.

He is the editor of the 2003 report of the National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel, "Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure," which evaluated US investments in CI and it use laid the ground work for the formation of the OCI.

Previously, Atkins served as a professor in the School of Information and in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he made major contributions to HPC architecture, and participated in the design and construction of seven experimental machines, including some of the earliest parallel computers.

Unfortunately, due to his hectic schedule as he transitions into his new role with the OCI, we were unable to catch up with Dr. Atkins, but we wish him the best and look forward to frequently reporting on the direction of the OCI under his leadership.

Boris, Jay
Chief Scientist and Director
Laboratory for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics, and the Naval Research Laboratory

Jay Boris

Why he's worth watching: As the Chief Scientist and Director of the Laboratory for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics (LCP&FD), and holder of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Chair of Science in Computational Physics, Jay Boris is responsible for developing, supervising, and leading the theoretical and computational research of the organization. He currently oversees projects that include applications of HPC in aerodynamics, fluid dynamics, reactive flow, microelectro-mechanical systems and micro-fluidics, laser-plasma interactions, and more.

Boris' expertise spans these topics and also includes research in turbulence, atmospheric sciences, plasma dynamics, nuclear weapons effects, and numerous aspects of HPC. For the last five years he and his team have been developing an instantaneous, accurate operational capability for urban civil defense called CT-Analyst. This easy-to-use tool uses the complete urban geometry to provide predictions of contaminant airflow and civil defense responses for airborne CBR agents and accidental industrial contaminants. This capability is now in use in dozens of organizations and has been independently verified and validated (IV&V) by the Missile Defense Agency. In 2005, Dr. Boris won the 2005 Fluid Dynamics Prize, presented by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, for his innovations in Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics and for his work on Contaminant Transport (CT) in cities.

Jay Boris is an accomplished bassist (bass guitar) and likes to play golf. He also does math puzzles and digital photography with his four grandchildren, Katrina, Stephanie, Maria, and Robert.

Gray, Keith
Manager of High Performance Computing

Keith Gray

"High-performance computing at BP is recognized as a critical enabling technology for our Advanced Seismic Imaging Research Program. Our researchers are able to test their ideas in the computer before they are carried to the field. I am really proud to be able to contribute to their breakthroughs."
- Keith Gray

Why he's worth watching: As the manager of HPC at BP, it's Keith Gray's responsibility is to provide company researchers with the computing tools that they need to turn their ideas into the next breakthroughs in energy research. In part due to Gray's efforts managing the BP HPC team since 1999, BP has grown its computing power from 0.15 Tflops to 35 Tflops in 2006. The effort to grow the company's computing power continues to this day, and has led to some significant advances for BP.

"The most challenging part of our job is trying to keep up with the computing requirements of our Seismic Imaging Researchers," explains Gray, speaking about the challenges of keeping up with the critical research needs of BP. "Projects we do routinely today were not possible three years ago. Our researchers have ideas for breakthroughs that will require orders of magnitude more computing power, and it's our job to keep up with them."

Away from his work, Gray says that his family is a priority, including his wife of 21 years and his two children. Aside from his family, Gray says that he enjoys any time he can get for bicycling. "I love bicycling," said Gray. "My son and I were able to participate in a charity bike ride from Houston to Austin last year, and had a great time together."

When asked about his first paying job, Gray shared that he started out processing seismic data with a geophysical contractor. "We had to submit punch cards to run on an IBM mainframe, and wait for days to get plots back," he commented on the tedious work. "We worked on paper plots of seismic data with colored pencils; today this is all done in 3D in the computer."

While he couldn't pinpoint a favorite movie, Gray shared with us that his favorite place on earth is Austin, Texas. "It has such beautiful places to hike and ride bikes," shared the Virginia Tech geophysics graduate. "I love the Tex-Mex and barbeque restaurants, great music, and really friendly people."

Graybill, Robert
Senior Advisor, Council on Competitiveness
Division Director, University of Southern California, Information Sciences Institute

Robert Graybill

"High Performance Computing is a national asset that if utilized by all segments of industry, up and down the supply chain, has the potential of accelerating innovation and U.S. competitiveness."
- Robert Graybill

Why he's worth watching: With more than 30 years' experience in the defense, government, and commercial industry, Robert Graybill is now a Division Director at University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute. His eagerness to advance the development of computer and communication technologies has elevated him to another worthwhile post as a senior advisor on the Council on Competitiveness, an organization guided by the mission to set an action agenda that drives economic growth and raises the standard of living for all Americans. As you might guess, HPC plays a large role in Graybill's work with the Council.

"I am leading the formation of an advanced national high-performance computing collaboration system that will link companies, universities, and national laboratories together to share high-performance computing systems and expertise," explains Graybill about his work with the Council on Competitiveness. "This effort, based on the Council of Competitiveness HPC user and industry findings, is intended to improve the competitiveness of U.S. companies in world markets." The system is called The National Innovation Collaboration Ecosystem, and its aim is to put the U.S. in an increasingly competitive position across world markets by providing a national virtual prototyping infrastructure aimed at accelerating innovation and speeding up the productization of ideas into workable products.

Outside of his work, Graybill's family takes a high priority in his life. He especially enjoys the interaction that he has with his grandchildren. "My three grandchildren provide a great source of joy in my life," says the man working to ensure that they live in a country that can compete in the world market for years to come.

Graybill reveals humble beginnings when asked about his first paying job. "I worked on a dairy farm for my uncle when I was in Junior High School," says the man who later went on to six years at DARPA, where he designed, developed, and implemented six new transformational programs in high-end computing architectures and responsive embedded computing hardware, software, and network systems.

The DARPA veteran reveals that he has a penchant for reading political thrillers. "My favorite author is Tom Clancy," says Robert. "I have read all of his books, cover to cover."

When asked about an aspect of himself that might surprise his friends or colleagues, Graybill reveals that some might be surprised to learn how handy he is with a set of woodworking tools and some raw materials. "I build decks, cabinets, and furniture," explains Robert. "Or at least I did in the past when I had more free time."

Grosh, John
Center for Applied Scientific Computing
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

John Grosh

"HPC is an indispensable tool for leading the race for innovation. No research organization can excel without this capability."
- John Grosh

Why he's worth watching: John Grosh was recently named the director of the Center for Applied Scientific Computing (CASC) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and as such, is responsible for overseeing the research and development activities of some of the most prestigious computer scientists and mathematicians working on a variety of applications in the defense, energy, and life sciences sectors. The CASC is one of the world's premier scientific computing research organizations and part of the Computing Applications and Research Department in the Computation Directorate at LLNL. As director of the CASC, Grosh's mission is to develop enabling computational technologies for large-scale scientific simulations and to collaborate in the application of these technologies toward programmatic and scientific objectives.

"CASC has a tradition of advocating and building research programs that address customer needs of today and successfully anticipates those of tomorrow," explains Grosh, who prior to assuming this position served as the Associate Director for Advanced Computing in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where he formulated Department of Defense (DoD) strategy and policy for computing and software science and technology. "I look forward to CASC continuing this tradition in the future."

Away from his work, Grosh says that his family is his priority. "My favorite place on earth is at home, or wherever my family is located," says Grosh who, with his family, shares his residence with several dogs, cats, and fish.

While deciding to remain mum on his first paying job, Grosh shared that his working past included a "sweet" job. "My second summer job involved working as a research technician at M&M Mars plant, which manufactured millions of chocolate bars per day," says the man who is a well known luminary in HPC circles, and is widely respected within the government, especially the DoD, DOE, and the intelligence community.

While he couldn't pinpoint a favorite book, Grosh shared that he's a fan of history, as well as a fan of works that speculate where that history could potentially lead (ie. Sci-fci). "I enjoy reading books on the history of nations, as well as biographies, and science fiction."

Grosh reveals a lighter side when asked about an aspect of himself that his friends and colleagues might be surprised to learn. "Occasionally, I like to play online computer games," revealed Grosh. "My sons marvel at how poorly I play, though."

Klawe, Maria
Dean of Engineering, Princeton
Incoming President, Harvey Mudd College

Maria Klawe

"HPC is making computational modeling an equal partner to theory and experiment in virtually every area of research in science and engineering, and is revolutionizing our understanding and insight in many fields. Its impact continues to grow in social sciences and humanities, transforming many of those disciplines as well."
- Maria Klawe

Why she's worth watching: Maria Klawe is worth watching because of her influence in molding the minds and careers of tomorrow's HPC superstars through her visionary leadership and sense of responsibility to the future. Serving as the Dean of Engineering at Princeton since January 2003, Maria led the School of Engineering and Applied Science with a plan aimed at developing the most well developed engineers with an admissions and education process that considers communication, people skills, and leadership in addition to academic achievement.

On July 1, 2006, Klawe will engender her visionary leadership into the halls of Harvey Mudd College, where she will be taking the reigns as the president of the school, founded back in 1955 with the vision of enriching its students in areas that include humanities and social sciences in order to affect a clear understanding of their work on society. Klawe, it seems, is the perfect fit.

Outside of her work, Klawe says that her husband and two children are the most important aspects of her life. In addition to her family, Klawe shares that she has a personal passion for painting. "I've been painting my entire life and it is a way of living in the world that is central to my existence," says Klawe about her love of creating images on a canvas. "I am constantly thinking about painting and am miserable if more than a few days pass without having a chance to paint. I take my paints everywhere and paint at board meetings, while on conference calls, at airports, on ferries."

In fact, she loves painting so much that it became her first job as a young artist, soliciting commissions from people around the neighborhood to capture their homes in portrait for a modest fee. "When I was 15, I wanted to buy a motor scooter," Klawe explained. "It cost $225 and my mother suggested that I get commissions from people in our neighborhood to do watercolor portraits of their houses. I did about 25 of them for $10 each and bought the motor scooter." She later went on to painting murals in exhibition booths at 17 years of age, and a year later was hired part-time as a graphic designer for a small film company.

Klawe enjoys reading, cluing us in that one of her favorite authors is Margaret Atwood. "I particularly like her novel, Blind Assassins," says the multi-talented first woman president of Harvey Mudd College. "It's extraordinarily deep emotionally and it does an amazing job of portraying how suffocating life could be for creative women in the past."

Adding to the diverse vibrancy of her personality and character, Klawe says that people are sometimes surprised to learn of her love for a good video game. "I received a Sony PSP for Christmas, and at the moment am thoroughly addicted to playing Lumines," exclaims Klawe, speaking of the popular game that is said by some critics to be the best Tetris-style puzzle game since original Tetris. "My 21-year-old daughter Sasha and I have been competing for the high score over the last few months. While we were visiting her in South Africa in March she completely discouraged me by getting as score over 146,000. But last week I had an amazing game with a score of 246,000. Yippee!"

Leonard, Ed
Chief Technology Officer
DreamWorks Animation SKG

Ed Leonard

"HPC is changing the landscape of business and is soon to be critical to any market leader."
- Ed Leonard

Why he's worth watching: Ed Leonard is worth watching because by and large, the world has decided that the end product of his work is worth watching. Leonard is the Chief Technology Officer for DreamWorks Animation SKG, the California-based studio responsible for such films as Shrek (Academy Award for best animated film), Shrek Two (highest grossing animated movie ever), Shark Tale, Madagascar and, most recently, Over the Hedge. As the CTO, Ed is responsible for the technical direction of the company, where he has spearheaded a number of advancements and innovations.

Leonard says that one of the most important aspects of his work is using HPC to eliminate the wait times for computer graphic artists. "Technology should enhance, not inhibit, the creative process," says Leonard. As part of this effort, he oversaw the studio's adoption of Linux, making DreamWorks Animation one of the first studios to fully embrace Linux as its core operating system for the production of animated films. Leonard was also a principal in developing DreamWorks Animation's Virtual Studio Collaboration system, which revolutionized the studio's ability to seamlessly collaborate across multiple geographic sites. The technology has been commercialized and is now being marketed by HP (a joint developer) under the "Halo" brand.

When asked about his passions away from work, Leonard explains that his family and his sense of civic responsibility play a large part in how he interacts with life away from the computer. "My wife and kids are a big priority in life," commented Ed, "along with doing my part to leave the Earth a better place than I found it."

Even as a kid, the man responsible for overseeing the technology behind one of the most creative movie companies today found a way to mix fun with work. Leonard says that his first paying job included his favorite mode of transportation: a skateboard. "My first paying job was passing out flyers to homes in new housing tracts," explained Leonard. "I was essentially getting paid to skateboard all day. How cool is that?"

Ever the family man, Leonard says that his favorite place on Earth is where his family is. "Fireside with my wife and kids—it doesn't get any better than that."

When asked about his favorite movie, Leonard shares that it doesn't necessarily have to be a special effects thriller in order to get his attention. He says he's very fond of the Bruce Willis mystery, The Sixth Sense. "I'm still mad that I was completely clueless until the end of the film," chides Leonard.

When asked about an aspect of himself that might surprise his friends and colleagues, Leonard bragged about his athletic skill at a foosball table. "I'm still the reigning campus foosball champ," he boasted. "All that college time paid off."

Markram, Henry
Co-Director of the Brain Mind Institute
Director of the Center for Neuroscience Technology
Director of the Blue Brain Project
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Henry Markram

"Supercomputing provides the means to replicate life's most intimate processes in digital form."
- Henry Markram

Why he's worth watching: As one of the pre-eminent neurological researchers in the world, Henry Markram is worth watching because he is working on the cutting edge of neurological science, with research implications that are set on unraveling the mysteries behind what makes our brain processes work. Among other lofty posts, Markram is the director of the Blue Brain Project, a joint venture between IBM and The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) aimed at creating a detailed model of the circuitry in the neocortex—the largest and most complex part of the human brain.

"In the same way that physicists must capture experimental data in order to simulate the first few microseconds of the big bang on supercomputers in an effort to understand the origins of the physical universe," explains Markram, "biologists must capture experimental data in order to simulate the detailed molecular and cellular events of the brain to understand the emergence of intelligence and consciousness, and explain how we become aware of the physical universe." The implications are staggering. "The 'holy grail' of the research is to reveal the code that the brain uses to build a virtual model of the world," says Markram of his research goals. "We will know when we succeed because we will be able to create a model of the world. The secret inside this 'grail' is the path to understanding the physical mechanisms underlying conscious beings."

Outside of his research, Markram reveals a Leonardo DaVinci-esque penchant for designing hypothetical machines. "One of my models is an anti-gravity machine for 3-D flight, based on sheering gravitation strings," shares the incredibly talented researcher. "I don't have a specific hobby, but I do enjoy the challenges of inventing these hypothetical machines."

When asked about his first paying job, Markram reveals a man determined to make ends meet in order to put himself through school. "My first paying job was selling encyclopedias in order to pay for my university fees," says the man who went on to become the co-director of the Brain Mind Institute, the director of the Center for Neuroscience and Technology, and director of the Blue Brain Project.

When asked about a favorite book, Markram reveals that he's a fan of Ayn Rand's books, particularly the novel, Atlas Shrugged. "I like Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, because of a sentence that reads something like 'God will keep stepping on you mercilessly until you lift up his foot,' which has stayed with me for over 25 years now. I also like Elie Wiesel's books because they all illustrate that 'to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.'"

Minyard, Tommy
Assistant Director for Advanced Computing Systems
Texas Advanced Computing Center, University of Texas

Tommy Minyard

"High-performance computing plays a crucial role in allowing researchers to explore the unknowns of our universe and expand scientific knowledge beyond what can be accomplished with standard experiments."
- Tommy Minyard

Why he's worth watching: Tommy Minyard's is worth watching because of his work in enhancing HPC work using huge clusters. As the Assistant Director for Advanced Computing Systems, Minyard manages the activities surrounding the various systems at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas. He currently oversees a 650-node cluster to support a wide community of researchers. "We are starting a partnership with all of the UT System schools and will be providing computational resources to them," explains Minyard about the TACC's goal to provide HPC resources to scientists who wouldn't normally have such access. "This will greatly broaden our user base and allow more scientists access to resources not normally readily available to them."

In addition to managing the giant cluster, Minyard is involved in a couple of research projects, including a project investigating methods for fault tolerant large-scale processing in production HPC environments, along with a project researching climate, weather, and ocean code-coupling methods.

Outside his work with the TACC, Minyard says the most important passion in his life is his wife Deborah, to whom he has been married seven years. "We enjoy traveling and have visited many areas of the globe," says Minyard, who also indicated that they are hoping for children before too long. "We've been married for seven years, and are planning to start a family soon." Aside from his wife and plans for children, Tommy enjoys annual fly-fishing trips with his father and brother. "We try to plan an annual trip to fly fish the rivers of Wyoming, or down in the Bahamas for bonefishing."

Minyard revealed that his first paying job was flipping hamburgers in a dive near Houston, Texas. "It was a greasy joint, but the chili-cheeseburgers were great," exclaims the man now responsible for organizing and coordinating the research activities within the HPC group at the TACC.

Austin, Texas is the place to be, according to the Texas native. "I was born in Texas, and lived in many areas around Texas and the country during my career, and I don't think there is a better place to live and play than in Austin."

When asked about his favorite book or movie, Minyard shared that while he can't pinpoint a single title, he's a big fan of the sci-fi genre. "One of my current favorites would have to be the movie Serenity," the follow-on movie to the FireFly series," he said of the movie sometimes described as a sci-fi Western. "The movie provides an interesting portrayal of society, and in my opinion, one potential possibility for life in the distant future."

When asked about an aspect of himself that his colleagues might be surprised to learn about, Tommy shared that he's an avid mountain biker on weekends, where he gets away from technical computing in favor of technical trails, commenting that, "Austin has some great hill terrain west of town with some fairly technical rock courses that I enjoy."

Neeman, Henry
Oklahoma University Supercomputing Center for Education and Research
Oklahoma University

Henry Neeman

"Computational Science and Engineering has made impossible things possible; High Performance Computing has made impossible things practical."
- Henry Neeman

Why he's worth watching: Henry Neeman is worth watching because of his work as the director of the Oklahoma University Supercomputing Center for Education and Research in developing strategies to make accessible the basic concepts of HPC to scientists and engineers with modest computing experience. His research and methodologies is creating a new class of HPC users who aren't experts in high performance computing, but are able to generate results that rival those of an expert. The effort includes a two-pronged approach, surprising in its simplicity, and even more so in its effectiveness. The first prong includes a series of seven-hour workshops entitled "Supercomputing in Plain English," in which instructors use analogies, storytelling, and minimal jargon to explore the fundamental ideas of HPC. "At the end of seven hours," explains Neeman, "you haven't learned enough to do anything useful—but what you have done is learned everything you need to know to learn everything you need to know."

The second prong of the approach includes what Neeman refers to as "rounds," in which students are guided into application of this knowledge to their own current projects. "We follow these workshops with 'rounds,' where I meet in person regularly with students, faculty and staff, working side by side with them to advance the HPC aspects of their research projects," explains Neeman. The approach has been successful, with Neeman citing his favorite success story about a student who had little programming experience, but managed to parallelize a flood forecasting code. "He even started coming up with better ideas than me," beams Neeman with the pride of an exceptional teacher, "and now he's employed by a government agency doing HPC for a living."

Neeman's life's passion is teaching, and even outside of his work in supercomputing, Neeman lends his abilities for instruction in another area that is a passion for him: formal dance. "I'm a supercomputing center director by trade, but a teacher by temperament," explains the personable instructor. "So I spend part of almost every day teaching supercomputing, and then at night my hobby is teaching ballroom dancing."

When asked about his first paying job, Henry reveals a job common to many kids. "I had a paper route with the local newspaper when I was 12," says the native of Buffalo, NY, who later went on to receive his BS in computer science and his BA in statistics with a minor in mathematics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, who went on to receive his PhD in CS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

When asked about his favorite book or movie, Neeman reveals a passion that has literally taken over his living room. "I have lots of favorite books—in fact, my whole living room is shelf after shelf of books, DVDs, and CDs, and I couldn't be comfortable if I wasn't surrounded by them." When revealing his favorite movie, Neeman shares a bit of his softer side. "My favorite movie is "Lilo and Stitch," because I identify so closely with the little blue alien—he's what I felt like when I was a little kid."

When asked about something his friends and colleagues might be surprised to learn, Neeman shares that some might not believe that he's actually got a shy side. "Everyone who knows me knows that I'm loud and outgoing—I have what's known as an outdoor voice," shares Neeman. "But when I'm surrounded only by strangers, away from anyone I know, I'm actually kind of shy."

Parker, Steve
Research Assistant Professor
University of Utah

Steve Parker

"The impact of high-performance computing on society has been astounding, but I believe that we are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg. HPC is going to play an integral role in tackling many of the world's toughest scientific challenges as we continue through the 21st century, and will shape our national policy, our laws, and even our health."
- Steve Parker

Why he's worth watching: As Research Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, Steve Parker specializes in HPC environments, focusing on tackling the toughest multi-scale, multi-physics computational challenges. "I believe that the HPC community needs more effective ways to bring large-scale machines to bear on a vast array of challenges," explains Parker. "Software that is easy to understand, reusable, robust, and reliable is vital to achieving the promise of HPC. We need software that can compute, manage, analyze, and visualize data in a much more straightforward manner, and it must scale to solve problems both large and small."

Development of HPC solutions that can be accessed ubiquitously across the spectrum is a familiar story that gets repeated throughout the universe of HPC, but for Parker, who serves as the Chief Software Architect for the University of Utah's Center for Simulation of Accidental Fires and Explosions, it's a matter of life and death. In this role, Parker leads the effort to build integrated multi-physics software environments to tackle large-scale simulations and analysis of fires and explosions on some of the largest computers in the world in order to evaluate risks and safety issues. "The real world is very complex, and we need algorithms and software that can make reliable predictions in spite of that complexity," explains Parker. "Such an environment is the goal of the Center for Simulation of Accidental Fires and Explosions."

Outside his work, Parker says that his family is his passion, where he finds himself the lone male in the pack. "I have four daughters that I love to watch learn and grow," says the proud father. Parker enjoys his role as a father, and occasionally struts his stuff as the family handy man. "When I have time, I like to build things around the house." His favorite projects include a bench and a crib that he built for his daughter. He says that he's done some extensive remodeling in several rooms of the house, and is proud to say that he does it all himself—from drywall, painting, plumbing, electrical, refinishing wood floors, and trim work.

When asked about his first paying job, Parker reveals an eager, opportunistic youth. "I started work at the age of 16 bussing tables at a restaurant," said the researcher who has developed algorithms for highly parallel interactive ray tracing to visualize some of the largest datasets available. "Before that, I babysat, gardened, and filled bags of ice at a convenience store to earn money."

Parker reveals the reflective outdoorsman in him when asked about his favorite place on Earth. "I love the Uintah mountain region in northeastern Utah," says Parker. "I enjoy the cool weather, the striking geography, and the feeling of being away from the world."

Parker demonstrated that his loyalty to his work carries through to his preferences for entertainment when asked about his favorite movie. "Toy Story is my favorite movie," reveals Parker. "Not only for the great story, but because it employed computer graphics in a groundbreaking way to tell the story. It is a movie that forever changed how children's stories are told, and made computer graphics a household word."

Ever the provider and family man, Parker exposes a tendency for the culinary arts when asked about an aspect of himself that might be surprising to his colleges. "I love to cook," he shares. His family enjoys his stuffed peppers, pepper-lime chicken, and saffron-cream chicken. One of his secrets, he shares, is watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network, which he enjoys because it goes into the science behind the process of cooking.

Rooholamini, Reza
Director, Enterprise Solutions Engineering
Dell, Inc.

Reza Rooholamini

"The promise of high performance computing lies in the empowerment of the masses to accomplish what was previously unthinkable."
- Reza Rooholamini

Why he's worth watching: As the Director of Enterprise Solutions Engineering at Dell, Inc., Reza Rooholamini is responsible for Dell's initiatives surrounding operating systems, clusters, databases, and enterprise applications, where he is currently working on initiatives that make HPC more broadly available to a wider user base. "One of the most important things we're doing right now is working to bring dynamically scalable, provisionable, and configurable high performance cluster computing to both academic and commercial end users, equally," explained Rooholamini.

Rooholamini says that outside of his work, one of his great passions is developing new friendships and learning more about people and what drives them. "I enjoy casual conversations," says Rooholamini. "It's a great joy to learn more about the people who I interact with."

Rooholamini reveals his farming roots when asked about his first job. "I collected and boxed eggs in a chicken coop for $5 dollars a day," says Rooholamini, who went on to achieve a doctorate degree in computer science/engineering at the University of Minnesota. Reza also shares that while his first paying job was in farming, his family roots have largely been that of public service, including government.

When asked about a favorite movie, Rooholamini shares that "I found Schindler's List to be moving. I especially enjoyed the example of people using influence, money, and power to help others in need."

Schwartz, Jonathan
Chief Executive Officer
Sun Microsystems

Jonathan Schwartz

"HPC is a key growth target for us and represents at least a $1 billion opportunity for Sun. The R&D investments we have made specific to HPC have allowed us to provide reliable, scalable tools for our customers to remain competitive in a rapidly changing technology landscape."
- Jonathan Schwartz

Why he's worth watching: As the new CEO at one of the HPC bellwether companies, Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz is definitely a person worth watching. Upon his appointment, Schwartz was described by his predecessor, Scott McNealy (now Chairman of Sun's Board of Directors), as the ideal leader to take Sun's CEO position.

As the chief executive, Schwartz says that Sun's goal will be to bring HPC to the masses, focusing on making Sun's high-performance computing a low-risk activity for customers. "Until now, much of HPC has been a customized endeavor, unique for each customer, involving a lot of special services and special technology," says Jonathan. "Companies are now realizing that they can get better performance with their server investments." While admitting that it's hard to boil down the most important thing that he's working on in HPC, Jonathan says that he is particularly proud of the Sun Solution Center for HPC in Hillsboro, Oregon. "It's a state-of-the-art benchmarking and solution facility where our customers can tap into one of the world's largest x64 compute clusters," explains Jonathan. "Making this resource available to developers, regardless of their size, demonstrates the value of computing as a commodity."

Schwartz says that he began his post-college career at McKinsey & Company in New York, then co-founded Lighthouse Designs, where he was CEO. "Lighthouse Designs provided software for NeXT computers running the NeXTSTEP operating system and was acquired by Sun in 1996," explained Schwartz.

He mentioned that, outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family along with his enjoyment of maintaining a blog where he can better communicate his mission at Sun. "I passionately believe in the mission of Sun and in the talent and innovativeness of our employees," commented Jonathan. "That is one of the reasons that I take the time to write a blog—it is an important tool in communicating the message and allows me to directly share my thoughts on a global scale and reach with people I normally would not."

When asked about his favorite place, Jonathan says that it's hard to pick just one, but that he truly enjoys spending time in developing nations talking to organizations and governments about bridging the digital divide and connecting citizens to the network. "I recently traveled to Brazil and was honored to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva," Jonathan commented. "Brazil is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to using free and open source technology and they have embraced it as an important tool in bridging the digital divide and stimulating business, technology, and economic growth."

Schwartz commented that one of his favorite books is "Empires of Light" by Jill Jonnes, which he says is an entertaining look at the history of how electricity was discovered, reliably generated, and ultimately distributed across the globe. "For those of us in the technology industry the history of the electricity industry provides an extraordinary parallel to the development of the network—in short, society was transformed as the basics of delivering the service were overcome," explained Jonathan. "This book helps readers to understand how maturing industries move from worlds of complete customization to standardization to utilization, and spawn profound new opportunities and sometimes entirely new industries and innovations."

When asked about any aspects of himself that his friends or colleagues might find surprising, Schwartz says that his value for openness and transparency leaves him with few secrets. "I would again point to my blog," said Jonathan. "I am eager to share my thoughts on Sun, technology, and the world at large, so I don't think there is anything anyone would find too surprising."

West, John
ERDC Major Shared Resource Center

John West

"I believe deeply in the power of research and development to fundamentally change society for the better, and I believe in the power of HPC to enable new and more far-reaching discoveries. Every dollar we spend right now in making HPC more accessible to new communities and younger users is a dollar that could lead to the next fundamental shift in how we all work and live."
- John West

Why he's worth watching: The vibrant John West is worth watching because of his visionary goals for making HPC accessible to new and diversified user groups. He's the guiding force behind the ERDC Major Shared Resource Center, one of four major supercomputing centers in the Department of Defense. The U.S. Army (ERDC) is one of the most diverse engineering and scientific research organizations in the world. The program consists of seven laboratories at four geographical sites, employs more than 2,000 engineers, scientists and support personnel, and conducts an annual research program approaching $700 million dollars.

West says that the proliferation and accessibility of high-performance computing power to an increasing number of users and scientific communities is his number one development priority. "In HPC we are using human-computer interaction metaphors that haven't changed substantially since the 1970s," explains West about his aim for making HPC more accessible to new community and younger users. "For traditional HPC communities and long-time HPC users this is not seen as a barrier—it's simply the way it is. But for younger users who have only grown up using a graphical user interface, and for communities that have not traditionally used supercomputers, this interaction metaphor is a significant and unnecessary barrier to entry."

Outside of his work, John says that his family takes the greatest priority in his life. "My greatest passions in life are my wife and best friend of 20 years, my children, and my family," shares West, who says that his home is his favorite place on earth. He says especially enjoys spending time with his two young boys on his parents farm. "The boys get to ride tractors, feed cows, and fish in the pond—for a 5 and 3 year old, it's better than Disney World!"

When asked about a favorite book, West quips that while he doesn't have a favorite, there are several that have affected him profoundly. "I've always been a big reader," says West. "There are books that have in small or large ways shaped how I look at the world. The ones that spring to mind (in no particular order) are Childhood's End, The Bell Jar, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Hamlet." John also says he is partial to a book he has written himself, "The Only Trait of a Leader: a field guide to success for new engineers, scientists, and technologists." John says he spends much of his free time promoting his book (which can be found at and the ideas within it.

West says his first job also played a role in his view of life. "For a short time in high school I cleaned restrooms at the McDonald's in my hometown," says the director of one of the most powerful research organizations in the world. "It didn't take me long to decide that college really was a good idea." West received his BS in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University in 1992 and an MS in Computational Engineering from the same institution in 1994.

When asked about something his friends and colleagues might be surprised to learn about him, West expressed a peculiar love for the intricacies of typefaces. "I'm a type nut," exclaims John. "I love to read about typefaces, how they are designed, and how they can shape artistic expression (and vice versa)."

Wheat, Stephen
Senior Director
Intel's High Performance Computing Platform Organization

Stephen Wheat

"HPC has the potential to be the most common tool for breakthrough discoveries in every field of endeavor. HPC is the tool to enable going from raw data, to insight, to results. The data explosion we face is only manageable with the aid of HPC solutions."
- Stephen Wheat

Why he's worth watching: It almost goes without saying that the person responsible for the development of Intel's HPC strategy is someone worth notice. But given his tremendous background in HPC, which includes roles as an academic end-user leading research in distributed systems software—including recognition through winning the Gordon Bell Prize—to his vast experience at Intel as the manager of several groups (including the Supercomputing Systems Division), Stephen Wheat is definitely someone to watch as he makes his mark on the future of HPC.

Certainly his vision to develop the platform and tools to facilitate the ubiquitous utilization of HPC technology in every pursuit possible is worth consideration. "The widespread use of HPC depends upon increasing the community of end-users capable of applying it to their needs," explains Wheat. "This talent pool needs to come from those that don't study HPC day in and day out. It needs to come from those that wouldn't consider themselves as computer scientists or computer engineers." He warns that if this is not accomplished, HPC cannot fulfill its potential, slowing the march of progress to a crawl.

When asked about his first paying job, Stephen reveals a humble beginning. "Like many people, my first paying job was as a dish washer," explains the man who holds the patent in Dynamic Load Balancing in HPC systems. "I worked in a barbeque restaurant, and remember to this day the greatest benefit of working there—the samplings of the local product."

Away from his work, Wheat reveals that he's a person deeply dedicated to his family and his faith. "My life is centered around my wife, Charlene, our family of four grown children, and our faith in and work for Jesus Christ," says Stephen, revealing that his dedication runs deeper than just his research. He also divulges a new role that he will be taking late this year, as he and his wife, Charlene, prepare to become grandparents for the first time this December.

"My favorite book is the Bible," says the reverent Wheat. "It is there that I find anything and everything I truly need." When asked about a favorite movie, Wheat reveals that he's a longtime fan of Peter Hunt's "1776," a musical rendition that tells the story of the weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. "It's been my favorite movie for the last 30 years," says Wheat. "The mix of humor, drama, and music is simply magnificent."

An accomplished luminary in high performance computing, Wheat reveals a secret that many of his colleagues might not be aware of: He is a multi-engine commercial pilot and certified flight instructor for multi-engine airplanes and instrument flying. "The world of aviation is the only one that has tempted me to pursue something other than HPC," he says of his hidden talent. "My next goals are to get my seaplane rating, my rotary wing commercial license, and my Airline Transport Pilot license. I still hope some day to fly a four-engine airplane—at least once."

Yelick, Kathy
Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory

Kathy Yelick

"This is an exciting time for those of us who work in high-performance computing, because parallel computing is now becoming mainstream, and people outside the field are looking to our community for insight into what works and what doesn't."
- Kathy Yelick

Why she's worth watching: Because she's already a proven dynamo based on her contributions to the development of the Titanium language, along with her involvement in the design of Unified Parallel C (UPC)—and she's not finished yet. Her multi-faceted research goal is to develop techniques for obtaining high performance on a wide range of computational platforms, all while easing the programming effort required to achieve high performance. Her current work has shown that global address space languages like UPC and Titanium offer serious opportunities in both productivity and performance, and that these languages can be ubiquitous on parallel machines without excessive investments in compiler technology.

"Most of my work is driven by the technological challenge of getting compilers, algorithms, or systems to work and perform well," says Yelick about her research. "But the motivation for one of my projects—simulation of blood flow to the heart—comes from a vision of using computers as a kind of 'digital body double' to evaluate treatment options. We're a long way from reaching that vision and there are plenty of technical challenges along the way."

Yelick says that away from work, her family is the top priority. Both she and her husband work in the HPC field, and Yelick says that they rely on their kids to keep their lives in balance. Part of that balance is the family's annual getaway to their favorite vacation spot, Yosemite National Park. "I love the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite, and since my kids love it, too, it's an easy spot for an annual vacation."

"Whether it's about soccer from my kids, numerical algorithms from my husband, or new insights into parallelism and performance from my research group, I love learning new things," says Kathy.

Yelick says her first job was making pizzas at Shakey's restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa. "I had wanted a job in the local hardware store, but they weren't convinced that I could handle the register," says the more than capable professor, who has taught courses in computing that would make the act of counting back change look humorously menial.

Yelick says that her colleagues and friends might be surprised to learn that she once rowed on the MIT crew team, including one summer with the first incarnation of a women's lightweight national team.

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