ISC High Performance Reflections of a Newbie

Dear Elizabeth,

First of all, thank you so much for finding a donor for my flight from Gaborone to Johannesburg. Please extend my gratitude to the wonderful people at South Africa’s Airlink Airlines!

Many thanks to ISC Marketing & Communications Manager Nages Sieslack, ISC Student Program Coordinator Colleen Sheedy and the ISC High Performance conference for the travel grant award! I appreciate STEM-Trek’s help covering up-front costs until ISC could make a reimbursement from my grant, and for the pocket euros. If not for everyone’s unwavering and collaborative support, it would have been difficult for me to attend the conference. People like you are rare, and worthy of being celebrated. You are my heroes!

My favorite part of the conference was the “Deep Learning Demystified” tutorial by NVIDIA and Leibniz Supercomputing Center. I was excited to experiment with Deep Learning models to do Object Detection on ocean shots, generate heat maps to see locations of whales in the ocean, and then to optimize performance of the models. It really opened my eyes to the vast applications of DL models. I can’t wait to experiment further, and share what I’ve learned with others. BTW, I met NVIDIA Deep Learning Solutions Architect Gunter Roeth in this tutorial; he told me he had met you in Barcelona at the HPC Knowledge Meeting sponsored by HPCNow!

I also enjoyed listening to experts in the HPC Container Workshop explain the current state of containers, like Docker, and how they can be used to foster improvements in  HPC and big data as well as Docker challenges & workarounds. I’m a newbie when it comes to HPC containers!

I loved the idea of having conference mentors, and ISC was full of people who were willing to help a first-time attendee, like me. It was a pleasure to meet Julian Kunkel (University of Reading) who shared strategies for HPC education over dinner on Sunday. Then, I met Jana Siddhartha (Intel) who gave us a motivational talk over lunch on Monday. He shared highlights of his journey into HPC, and pointed us to some of the more important areas we may wish to investigate. Throughout the week, I met many new friends who I believe will help with my future HPC endeavors. Meeting Thomas Sterling (Indiana University/CREST) was a highlight, and I enjoyed his keynote address very much. I will treasure the photo that you took of Raksha Roy (ICIMOD/Nepal), Dr. Sterling and me; thank you.

I wanted to share two ideas while they are fresh in my mind…

It would be great to have an early-career female keynote speaker who could talk about HPC developments from her perspective, e.g. identifying and scaling the gaps that exist between HPC newbies  and experts in the field. While there is a “Women in HPC” workshop, some men may not feel like they should attend (the title implies it’s for women, and not allies). If this theme were brought into a general session, all men would hear the important message. Sometimes it’s not obvious to us what the obstacles are; the keynote could explain how a traditionally male-dominated field might help more women succeed. Added diversity will benefit both the HPC industry, and scientific domains it supports.

In addition to the student cluster competition, we might introduce another contest called, “HPC Pitch” which would be a fun way to improve communications skills, and the public’s understanding of HPC and outreach. In this event, students could choose a topic, and then explain the concepts so that a five-year-old child would perfectly understand them, using charts, graphs, power points and any other available resource. This would help more domain and computational scientists explain their work in ways that laymen will understand; the public needs to know why HPC matters so they will support more government science and technology spending! There could be awards for the best pitch, and they could be invited to blog for STEM-Trek.

Overall, the conference was awesome. I learned a lot and hope to attend ISC High Performance again in the future.

Raksha and I  are still working on a handbook of our ISC experience, which we will email to you and Nages when we are finished. Hopefully, it can be added to your websites to benefit students who wish to apply for ISC in the future.

Kind Regards,

Badisa Mosesane


Editor’s note: Badisa is an undergraduate student at the University of Botswana where he studies computer science. He also participates in the HPC Ecosystems Project led by Bryan Johnston at the Centre for HPC in Cape Town. “Ecosystems” is preparing the comptuational and data science workforce in a broad sub-Saharan region to support the Square Kilometer Array’s 50-year lifespan.

U-Botswana hosts a cluster that was once part of the U-Texas’ Ranger system that was decommissioned in 2012, and they will soon receive pieces of U-Texas’ decommissioned Stampede system which Badisa will help support. He participated in an eight-week summer school at CERN in 2017 where he configured a cluster (on his own with very little supervision).

There aren’t many undergrads who could work as an HPC Sysadmin, but I have no doubt that Badisa could keep things optimized and the lights blinking. Yet, he aspires to learn a lot more about physics, visualization and modeling, and hopes to pursue a graduate program in the near future. We wish him luck, and hope to hear from him again!

— Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

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  1. Levi Mberego

    Good to hear you are still aiming high Badisa!

  2. I have to admit, I love the idea of the HPC Pitch 🙂

    Not sure where it would fit in a big scale event like ISC but I’m sure we can ‘pitch’ the idea further 🙂

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