Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SC15 to Strengthen, Enhance Programs for Students, Early Career Researchers

Student volunteers play a variety of important roles before and during the conference.

Revamped programs aimed at increasing diversity and supporting younger researchers at various career stages

For the past 15 years, the annual SC conference has welcomed hundreds of students to the week-long conference held every November, providing an entry into the community of high performance computing and networking. For SC15 in Austin, the student programs will be coordinated as a broader program to recruit a diverse group of students, ranging from undergrads to graduate students, as well as researchers who are in the early stages of their careers after graduating.

Through various programs, students can get their first introduction to supercomputing, compete in a grueling contest to assemble and run a computing cluster, learn about career options from mentors, present their research through posters and presentations, and participate in professional development sessions. For the first time, a focused program is also planned for early career scientists.

“The SC conference has a strong track record of supporting students and striving to increase the number of students from under-represented groups, which is critical for our community,” said SC15 General Chair Jackie Kern, leader of an IT department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “To build on our past successes and create a more cohesive student program, I am very happy to say that Jeanine Cook of Sandia National Laboratories has agreed to chair our student programs.”

Cook’s experience gives her strong qualifications for the tasks ahead. She was an associate professor at the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at New Mexico State University for 11 years. In 2008, she was a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award was presented to Cook by President George W. Bush during a White House ceremony. In 2013, Cook accepted an offer to join the staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. She has also helped organize student programs at SC conferences since 2008.

“The SC15 theme is ‘HPC Transforms’ and we’re looking to do as much as we can so that our student attendees’ ideas about school and careers are also transformed,” Cook said. “In my 10 years as a professor, I saw many times how just the right opportunity or word of encouragement could have a powerful effect on a student’s career choice and development. At SC15, we want to provide that kind of inspiration to as many students as possible.”

Here is a look at the various components of the SC15 Student Program:

Student Volunteers: Launched at SC99, Student Volunteers often serves as a way to introduce computer science students to the field of high performance computing. In exchange for helping with administrative tasks, students can attend technical sessions and learn from leading vendors and research organizations. New for SC15: Student Volunteers program will be significantly increased in size and scope with the goal of attracting a broader, more diverse group, helping them come together as a community and spend more time experiencing the conference technical and interacting with other attendees. Applications for Student Volunteers open March 16, close June 1.

Student Cluster Competition: The Student Cluster Competition was created in 2007 to introduce the next generation of students to the high performance computing community and gives teams of students hands-on experience. In this real-time, non-stop, 48-hour challenge, teams of undergraduate and/or high school students will assemble a small cluster on the SC15 exhibit floor and race to demonstrate the greatest sustained performance across a series of applications. Over the last couple of years, the competition has drawn teams from around the world, including Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Russia, Taiwan and the USA. Applications are now open, but close April 17.

HPC for Undergraduates: HPC for Undergraduates was launched at SC12 and then extended for three more years. The idea of providing a focused program integrated with the main technical program has proven successful. New for SC15: The program plans to introduce a focused Mentor/Protégé component. The HPC for Undergraduates program will form the basis for a new HPC for Early Career Researchers program Applications open March 16, close June 1.

The Mentor/Protégé Program also started at SC09 as part of the Broader Engagement program, matching students with volunteer mentors prior to the conference. The program, which aims to match protégés and mentors with similar technical backgrounds, will continue at SC15.

The ACM Student Research Competition Posters: This technical poster program provides an introductory route for students to begin presenting their research to the broader community. The student poster competition will again be part of the Technical Program at SC15. Participants in the SC15 Student Programs will be encouraged to attend the poster presentations to begin thinking about their own participation at future conferences. Submissions open Feb. 16, close July 31.

The Student-Postdoc Job & Opportunity Fair was first held during SC09 and has continued to grow. Interested students can meet with leading exhibitors and have the opportunity to submit their resumes in advance to introduce themselves. The job fair will be part of the Student Programs at SC15.

The Doctoral Showcase debuted at SC07 as a venue to showcase research by students earning Ph.D.s in fields related to high performance computing. At SC15, It will be part of the Technical Program with active support from Student Programs and participants will be encouraged to network with Student Program attendees. Submissions open Feb. 16, close July 31.

“By slightly adapting some of the programs, we aim to give students a better foundation for making the most of their week at the conference,” Cook said. “By having more focused interactions with their peers, with mentors and potential employers and members of the global HPC community, we believe we will also provide them with experiences and knowledge that they can use in planning their own career paths.”