Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Meet the SC15 Student Cluster Competition Chair: Hai Ah Nam

The SC15 Student Cluster Chair Hai Ah Nam from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In 1999, the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Hai Ah Nam left graduate school for a summer hiatus to take care of her ailing father and save a marriage that was cracking under the grad school pressure. The summer hiatus ended up lasting five years.

“I had a master’s degree in physics at that point,” Nam says, “but it wasn’t getting me anywhere in southern California. I went to work in the internet industry for a while and then taught high school math, but it wasn’t fulfilling that part of me that wanted to know more, do more.”

By now a single parent with an 18-month-old daughter, Nam sat down at her desk one evening and took stock.

“I felt nearly as lost as when I had first gone off to college,” Nam recalls. “I loved physics, but I did not see a path forward and needed to take a step back.”

Nam was at a turning point and in the end decided to join another graduate school, but this time a joint doctoral program in computational science through San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University.

“Going back to school when everyone else was at least five years younger and didn’t have to rush home after classes to struggle with the joys of potty training was tough,” Nam notes with a smile. “I had to push down a lot of insecurities and convince myself that the sacrifice would pay off.”

While spending her summers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nam was asked whether she would be interested in helping the 2007 Student Cluster Competition as a volunteer. Although she was not sure what the competition entailed or how to fit it into her busy schedule, she said yes and was glad she did. The initial yes ended up leading to a wide variety of professional development and networking opportunities, including staff positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and now Los Alamos, and a new husband to boot.

Nam with SCC co-chair Tiki Suarez-Brown and Awards Chair Jack Dongarra with the 2010 SCC winner, University of Texas at Austin.
Student Cluster Competition
Since volunteering for her first Student Cluster Competition, Nam has been an active member of the event’s organizational team and in 2010 served as that year’s Student Cluster Competition chair.

“Over 10,000 high-performance computing professionals and students from all over the world attend SC annually, which includes the Student Cluster Competition,” Nam explains. “Students from as far away as Australia, Colombia and China compete on the global stage to build and operate powerful cluster computers—smaller versions of high-capacity supercomputers—and everyone has a lot of fun.”

But offering chances to compete and have fun are only part of the event’s contributions.

“The Student Cluster Competition provides students with training beyond what they are able to get through their universities,” Nam says, “and they learn about new research, have a chance to network and get a taste of future career paths that they probably never even knew existed.”

Click here to read the full article.

Click here for more information about the Student Cluster Competition.

Article courtesy of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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