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Inspiring the future of HPC

Speed read
  • Travel grant funds students from around the world to attend ISC conference
  • New recruits from diverse communities are needed to continue expansion of HPC field
  • Awardees receive training, mingle with HPC experts, and learn about the latest technologies

Learning about high-performance computing (HPC) for the first time is like discovering  humanity’s superpower. Between designing new drugs to fight cancer, improving efficiency on wind farms, and constructing earthquake-ready buildings, there seems almost no end to the feats HPC can accomplish.

The next generation. Each year, the ISC Travel Grant program funds two students to attend the ISC High Performance conference in Frankfurt, Germany, where they get a close-up view of the cutting edge of a fast-changing technology.

But those breakthroughs mean little without knowledgeable people ready to carry the technology into the future. As more domains come to rely on supercomputers to advance, HPC-literate scientists and engineers are in ever greater demand.

That’s why encouraging the next generation of HPC scientists and engineers is so important. ISC High Performance does its part through the Travel Grant program which invites students from around the world to apply for a chance at a free trip to ISC.

Travel Grant winners travel to Frankfurt, Germany to meet with industry experts, attend program sessions, pair with a mentor, and form friendships that can last a lifetime. This unique experience can shape the direction of a young person’s entire career.

What is ISC like?

Now in its 34th year, ISC brings together 3,573 attendees from 64 countries to learn about new technologies, exchange ideas, and discuss international developments. With so much going on, the experience could be overwhelming for new attendees.

<strong>Forming friendships.</strong> Elizabeth Leake and Molly Kgobathe at ISC High Performance in Frankfurt Germany, June 2019. Courtesy ISC High Performance.But 2019 winner Molly Nkamogelang Kgobathe, a postgraduate researcher from the University of Botswana, felt right at home.

“ISC has been a wonderful experience,” says Kgobathe. “The people here are very welcoming. We get to learn a lot about HPC that you think you already know. Eventually, you realize ‘I didn’t really know that!’”

For winner Aurelio Vivas, a research assistant at Universidad de los Andes, his big takeaway is the value of collaboration.

“If we promote cooperation between universities, we can improve all of our resources and we can perform more experimentations,” says Vivas.

We also checked in with 2017 winner Umesh Upadhyaya of Nepal, to find out how the Travel Grant has impacted his career several years out.

<strong>The ISC student program</strong> provides HPC tutorials, a job fair, dinner reception, and guided tour of the exhibition. Courtesy ISC High Performance.“The Travel Grant provided me a good exposure to the HPC world, which inspired me in such an extent that I ended up creating a start-up non-profit organization, HPCNepal, to support the first supercomputing facility in Nepal,” says Upadhyaya.

While programs like the Travel Grant give a big boost to the awardees, that’s only the beginning. By showing other students what they can do if they continue to work hard in the field, ISC is creating a ripple effect that will hopefully inform young people all over the world about the effect HPC could have on their lives.

“When I applied for this grant, I didn’t think I’d be accepted,” says Vivas. “I think I am the first Colombian in this conference. So, now I can invite other people from my country to apply.”

Direct engagement

Empowering students to tackle the challenges in front of them is a vital part of bringing young people into the field, especially women.

<strong>Travel grant winners</strong> don’t just improve their technical skills, but also the sometimes-overlooked soft skills needed to succeed in the HPC field. Courtesy ISC High Performance.“In one class, I learned that it’s not just the technical skills that are important to work in the HPC field, there’s also the soft skills, which most of us ignore!” says Kgobathe.

“If you are a woman in an organization run by men – like where I come from, the cluster is male-dominated – there tends to be a gap between the ladies and men,” she continues. “The men are more technical and the ladies just chip in when they need help. You get to learn how to overcome those situations, and how to build your confidence.”

The ISC Travel Grant program is a great example of where HPC is headed. Supercomputing has the capacity to solve a wide range of problems that many communities struggle with. However, in order to really bring those solutions to life, we’ll need people from those communities to engage directly with the technology.

If you want a chance to experience these benefits for yourself and to make lifelong connections, apply for the ISC 2020 Travel Grant program. The application process begins in winter of 2019, so make sure to apply early!

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