By: Martilio Rafael Banze, HPC administrator, Mozambique Research and Education Network (MoRENet).
As I crossed the ocean heading to SC23, I immersed myself in fertile ground where my dreams, once confined to imagination, found space to bloom and thrive. I want to share in detail my incredible journey to SC23, including the STEM-Trek NRG@SC23 pre-conference workshop, by highlighting not only the challenges that were overcome, but also the great support I received along the way.
Short Bio: My name is Martilio Rafael Banze; I am married, with one child. I work as a High-Performance Computing (HPC) administrator at the Mozambique Research and Education Network (MoRENet), and hold degrees in Meteorology from Eduardo Mondlane University, and Physics and Mathematics from the Pedagogical University of Maputo. I received basic training in Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (HatRAO) and in HPC through the South African Centre for HPC (CHPC). While I have been to neighboring South Africa and Brazil before, this was my first trip to the U.S. – an incredible opportunity.
Visa Acquisition: Despite challenges in obtaining a U.S. visa, with delays from the institution in approving the trip and a lack of available dates at the embassy, patience prevailed. Bureaucracy and postponement were overcome, ensuring the opportunity to participate in the annual Supercomputing Conference.
Destination SC23: The International Conference for High Performance
Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis
Flight Ticket Purchase: Uncertainty persisted until the last moment, with the institution taking time to buy the ticket. The confirmation of the trip came on the 5th for a departure on the 6th. I thank those involved for making this race against time possible.
Arrival in the USA: Upon arriving in the USA, I was welcomed by the incredible transportation infrastructure, especially the efficient Uber system. Denver, as a city, seemed like a work of art, clean and charming, providing a unique backdrop.
Exploring NCAR: On November 9, 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to explore the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Guided by Daniel Howard (HPC Engineer) and Wenfu Tang (Project Scientist) the visit provided a deep immersion into the facilities and projects of NCAR. Innovative presentations, a tour of cutting-edge facilities, and an exploration of NCAR’s rich history were inspiring.
As a graduate in Atmospheric Sciences, this was a significant step toward my dream of becoming a scientist specialized in climate modeling. The visit not only enriched my knowledge but also strengthened my desire to pursue a career in this field. Establishing valuable connections with experts in the field during the visit was an enriching experience. This event marked an important chapter in my journey towards realizing my dream.
PAIN Panel: During the STEM-Trek NRG@SC23 pre-conference workshop, I was invited to sit on the “PAIN Panel,” moderated by Senzo Mpungose (Operations Manager, U-Witwatersrand). I presented an overview of MoRENet in the HPC field, highlighting challenges, and sharing our experience. It’s important to note that in this group, I was the only graduate, surrounded by professionals I admire, especially Dr. Happy Sithole (CHPC), whom I already knew, making the experience unique.
Happy Sithole (South African Centre for HPC/NICIS and CSIR).
Center directors shared unexpected events that hijacked their time, budget and/or staff. What strategies worked, and what should be avoided when navigating Power, Access ($), Interoperability, and Network pitfalls. The audience learned from a panel with more than 90 years of collective expertise!
Participation in the Conference: SC23 was monumental, one of the largest I’ve ever seen with more than 14k attendees. The organization was crucial, given that the Colorado Convention Center, with 584k contiguous square feet of event space, has many concurrent sessions. Since it would be impossible to attend everything, we may view online sessions of programs we missed through December 31, 2023.
Networking and Exchange: Being an integral part of a panel alongside seasoned experts proved to be both enlightening and inspiring. Despite the unique pronunciation of some speakers, their profound ideas resonated deeply. Unfortunately, I regret not having the chance to converse with Christiane Jablonowski. I had hoped for a discussion after the Parallel Computing session to seek guidance on venturing into the field of climate modeling. Regrettably, due to her numerous commitments, finding an opening proved challenging. I attempted to connect through LinkedIn, although the success of this endeavor remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the overall networking experience was enriching and opened doors to potential future collaborations.
Inestimable Support: I want to express my profound gratitude to Elizabeth Leake from STEM-Trek Nonprofit, and Bryan Johnston from the South African Centre for HPC (CHPC). They have been unwavering in their support, guiding me, clarifying doubts, and providing constant updates. Their invaluable assistance played a pivotal role in the success of this journey. I’ve learned that there are generous and selfless individuals in this world, and I am truly thankful to them for wanting to see me grow.
Culinary Challenges: American cuisine posed challenges, especially for someone accustomed to Mozambican cooking. Uber Eats proved to be a lifesaver, offering options that felt more familiar, and having a kitchen in my accommodation was an advantage.
Active Participation in Tutorials and Workshops: I actively took part in enriching tutorials, such as “Parallel Computing,” “Scalable Big Data Processing on High-Performance Computing System,” and “Compression for Scientific Data.” The in-depth learning from these sessions was challenging but incredibly rewarding.
Exploration of Workshops: Among the workshops, I highlight my participation in “Designing HPC Outreach Activities,” a unique opportunity to understand effective strategies for scientific outreach activities, particularly in promoting HPC services.
Deepening into Relevant Topics: Additionally, I took the time to explore presentations of interesting scientific papers and participated in exhibitions, seizing the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the Slurm workload management system.
Final Thoughts: This journey surpassed my expectations, and I want to thank STEM-Trek and their sponsors – especially Google – for the scholarship that provided me with accommodation and meals. Thank you SC23 General Chair Dorian Arnold (Emory University), for sponsoring my technical program registration (with workshops and tutorials) which offered learning, valuable connections, and a broader view of research in various fields. Thanks to all others who made this possible. My dream of visiting the U.S. came true early, but one thing is certain: this is just the first of many enriching journeys.