Google’s Dr. Patrick Flick Wins ACM SIGHPC Doctoral Dissertation Award

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Dr. Patrick Flick, a software engineer at Google who earned his PhD in computational science from Georgia Tech in 2019, has won the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing (ACM SIGHPC) 2020 SIGHPC Doctoral Dissertation Award.

This year’s award is presented for outstanding contributions to parallel string algorithms on distributed memory parallel computers, with applications to computational biology.

Dr. Flick’s dissertation is entitled “Parallel and Scalable Combinatorial String Algorithms on Distributed Memory Systems.” It presents a distributed-memory parallel algorithm for constructing a distributed representation of suffix trees, yielding both superior theoretical complexity and better practical performance compared to previous distributed memory algorithms. The new algorithm minimizes the overall and per-node communication volume, providing a more efficient way to express data structures for application areas such as text processing, information retrieval, and computational biology.

The SIGHPC award is given annually for the best dissertation in HPC in the previous year and includes a $2,000 cash prize and recognition at the annual SC industry conference in November. Nominations were evaluated on technical merit, the significance of the research contribution, the potential impact on theory and practice, and overall quality of work.

Dr. Flick has a history of winning awards – he authored the first paper used for the Student Cluster Challenge Reproducibility Challenge at SC16, and was awarded best student paper at SC15.

Dr. Patrick Flick

Dr. Flick’s “work exemplifies the best of the HPC community, and helps to raise the standards of the profession,” said Jeff Hollingsworth, the chair for this year’s dissertation award. “The applicant pool was made up of outstanding recent PhDs, whom we hope will continue to make exciting contributions to high performance computing techniques and technologies in the future.”

Honorable Mention for the award went to Dr. Bo Fang, a postdoctoral research associate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for his thesis, titled “Approaches for Building Error Resilient Applications,” which the SIGHPC cited for making “significant progress on protecting large-scale HPC applications against ‘soft errors’ (i.e., hardware transient faults).”

Dr. Bo Fang

Dr. Fang earned his PhD from the University of British Columbia.

The SIGHPC award is open to students anywhere in the world who have completed a PhD dissertation with HPC as a central research theme. In this case, HPC refers to the study or application of computational capabilities delivering much higher performance or larger scales than could be accomplished with a desktop or simple server system to solve large problems.

Nominations for the next Doctoral Dissertation Award will open in August 2020.