People - Written by on June 16, 2011

DOE Recognizes OLCF Outstanding Mentors

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Staff members are awarded for their dedication to the development of students and teachers

The OLCF's Bobby Whitten and James Rogers were recognized by DOE as outstanding mentors.

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded OLCF staff members James Rogers and Bobby Whitten with Outstanding Mentor Awards.

Coordinated by the Office of Science Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, the award recognizes mentors for their personal dedication to preparing students for careers in science and science education through well-developed research projects. Winners are nominated by their mentees.

Rogers, who is the director of operations for OLCF, most recently mentored Nathan Livesey, a graduate of Oak Ridge High School and rising junior in the department of chemical engineering at Tennessee Technological University. Under Rogers’ tutelage for two consecutive summers and a short stint during the winter of 2010, Livesey worked on facilities-related projects, specifically the design of electrical systems to support high-performance computers like OLCF’s Cray XT5 Jaguar. Rogers provided Livesey with space in his own office so that questions could be addressed without delay. By working with other divisions of the laboratory and different groups within OLCF, Livesey was able to deploy his own electrical system plan on a virtual machine. Livesey will be interning at the laboratory again this summer, working with computational chemists and materials scientists on material that is more closely aligned with his studies.

Whitten—a member of the User Support group at OLCF—acts as a mentor in two specific programs, one aimed at educators and the other at students. The DOE-sponsored ACTS (Academies Creating Teacher Scientists) program helps high school teachers grow as leaders of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education by pairing them with mentors at national laboratories. Mentors provide these teachers with one-on-one training on how to better integrate the practice of science into their curricula. Whitten was paired with Rosalie Wolfe, a Network Systems teacher at Vinton County High School in McArthur, Ohio who helped Whitten create a course in which students build a small supercomputer. Students in the ARC program (Appalachian Regional Commission)—also mentored by Whitten—tested this supercomputing course, gaining insight into how supercomputers work and how they are programmed. Since 2008, Whitten has mentored 22 students in both the ACTS and ARC programs.

“Bobby is a great teacher, and I have learned so much from working with him this summer,” said Wolfe of her experience with the ACTS program. “Bobby has provided me with a project that is within my capabilities, and yet at the same time challenging. [He] encouraged me to do research to learn programming languages I didn’t even know existed, and yet when there was something I didn’t understand or a problem that I couldn’t solve, Bobby was there to provide ‘hints’ and encouragement that kept me from giving up.”

Outstanding Mentor awards were presented at the Computing and Computational Sciences Division Extended Leadership Team meeting on Tuesday, May 24 on the campus of ORNL. — by Caitlin Rockett