Interview: SC14 Chair Trish Damkroger

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Trish Damkroger

Trish Damkroger

In this interview from the SC14 Blog, conference chair Trish Damkroger gives her perspective on this year’s Supercomputing Conference in New Orleans.

SC14: How do you balance being the Computation’s Deputy Associate Director and Department Head for the Computing Applications and Research Department at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with being the SC14 Chair (not to mention a mother of 2 children and 1 horse)?

Trish Damkroger: It is all about time management and enjoying what you do. Luckily, I have an outstanding team of professionals both at LLNL and SC14. There is a wealth of knowledge from experienced SC volunteers who continue to provide their expertise year after year. The volunteers of SC are the heart of creating the thriving conference each year. My job is to keep them motivated and moving in the same direction.

SC14: What inspires you to continue to volunteer on SC for the past 10+ years?

Trish Damkroger: My main motivation is the people of SC, both the volunteers and the attendees. Many of my co-SC committee members have become close friends who I enjoy working with from across the world. I also believe in the power of HPC. I truly believe that HPC is key to the advancement of science. Plus it is really cool stuff!

SC14: What advice can you give people coming to their first SC conference?

Trish Damkroger: Attend a wide variety of the different pieces of the program. Each element will give you something new to think about. The tech papers will show you the latest research in HPC, posters will give you an opportunity to see and quickly learn new techniques, and a must is the exhibit floor. My first time at SC, I was blown away by the energy on the exhibit floor. It is always fun to see the latest hardware and software being showcased. And I love talking with the students.

SC14: Anything new this year, or new trends that you are noticing?

Trish Damkroger: The convergence of big data and HPC.  Data analytics is now an expectation for HPC, which makes the distinction between different architectures disappear.

SC14: How did the theme “HPC Matters” develop, and what are you hoping to accomplish with this focus?

Trish Damkroger: HPC is a tool that supports scientific discovery. Without HPC, we cannot achieve the scientific advances possible. The idea was to bring attention to everything that HPC contributes to. I also want to excite the next-generation to consider careers in HPC.

SC14: What are some of the most pressing issues facing HPC in general?
Damkroger: People to do the work. We are seeing a decline is CS graduates in general and diversity is another concern. Without a diverse working population, we will not get the creativity needed for the next big advances in HPC.

SC14: What are the “can’t miss” content areas at SC14?

Trish Damkroger: I am very excited about the keynote. Of course, that is just a teaser but expect an announcement in the next month. As above, the exhibit floor gives you a great way to see HPC in action through the demonstrations and presentations. I also encourage participation in the tutorials and workshops. SC brings together the leaders in HPC, and many of those leaders teach the tutorials and lead the workshops.

SC14: What are you personally looking forward to the most at SC14?

Trish Damkroger: The people. I can’t wait to see my friends and acquaintances from around the world who converge at SC.

SC14: For someone just starting out in their career, what advice would you offer?

Trish Damkroger: Find something you love doing and enjoy it. I was so busy doing, I never really stopped to appreciate everything else that was going on around me.

SC14: When you first started out, who was an important mentor and why?

Trish Damkroger: I have been lucky to have a number of thoughtful mentors. I have had technical mentors and career mentors over the years. As a woman in electrical engineering, one of my first mentors who inspired me was Pat Falcone. She demonstrated what a strong, technical female engineer could be, and how to be professional without being “one of the guys”. I always admired her quiet strength.

SC14: In a few words, describe what people coming to SC14 will experience.

Trish Damkroger: They will experience a whirlwind of options to see the latest research in HPC, networking, storage and analysis.

Registration is now open for SC14, which takes place Nov. 16-21 in New Orleans. At insideHPC, we are proud to be a Media Partner for the conference, so check out our full coverage to date.