T.P. Straatsma of PNNL takes reins as Titan prepares to come online

The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) is proud to announce the addition of T.P. Straatsma as its new Scientific Computing Group (SCG) Leader.

T.P. Straatsma, new group leader for OLCF’s Scientific Computing Group.

T.P. Straatsma, new group leader for OLCF’s Scientific Computing Group.

Born and educated in the Netherlands, Straatsma previously worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) for 18 years, where he served as Laboratory Fellow and the head of the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics group, and before that as research faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Houston. He is an internationally recognized scientist with more than 30 years of experience in the development, efficient implementation, and application of advanced modeling and simulation methods as key scientific tools in the study of chemical and biomolecular systems.

“I’m most fascinated by being able to describe physical systems with mathematical equations on big computers to interrogate these systems,” said Straatsma, adding that computing is quickly becoming a necessary component of research and a critical complement to experimental work which can be expensive, dangerous, or impractical.

During his tenure at PNNL Straatsma has served on the development team for NWChem, a popular quantum and molecular dynamics code that is currently running on Titan, the OLCF’s new Cray XK7. For the last five years he has also served as the director of PNNL’s Internal Investment in Extreme Scale Computing.

Straatsma has continuously focused on using advanced computer science and applied mathematics to help diverse scientific domains reach extreme scales, a focus that will continue in his role as SCG Group Leader.

With Titan’s hybrid architecture, featuring a mixture of traditional CPUs and graphics processing units (GPUs), the challenge is greater than ever as scientific applications need to make the necessary adjustments to take advantage of Titan’s 20-plus petaflops of computing power.

Straatsma takes over for Bronson Messer, who served as acting Group Leader following the transition of Ricky Kendall, Straatsma’s colleague and friend at PNNL, to chief computational scientist.

The SCG works concurrently with the users of HPC systems to help them obtain optimal results from the OLCF’s computational resources. The SCG is comprised of research scientists, visualization specialists, and workflow experts who are trained in chemistry, physics, astrophysics, mathematics, numerical analysis, and/or computer science.

“I’ve always enjoyed working on large machines,” said Straatsma, who has authored more than 75 peer-reviewed publications throughout his career.

With Titan, he is about to have the time of his life.