People - Written by on December 7, 2016

ORNL Staffers Create a Buzz at Grace Hopper Conference

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This year 14 ORNL staff members joined forces with other DOE national laboratory representatives at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, held in Houston, Texas, from October 18–21.

This year 14 ORNL staff members joined forces with other DOE national laboratory representatives at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference, held in Houston, Texas, from October 18–21. Image Credit: Tony Baylis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

OLCF employees present on novel topics, link with other DOE labs in Texas

Women from all over the world united at the 22nd annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference (GHC), presented by the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology and the Association for Computing Machinery. This year 14 women from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) attended the conference to recruit, present research, and help build the community.

One of the largest and most diverse conferences in computing, GHC aims to bring together an underrepresented population in computer science: women. Featuring workshops, talks, poster presentations, and a career fair, the event draws in women technologists from across the globe every year. This year’s conference was held October 18–21 in Houston, Texas. More than 15,000 men and women attended—up from last year’s 12,000 attendees.

Katie Schuman, cochair of the Women in Computing (WiC) networking group at ORNL and Liane Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellow, presented ORNL’s most well-attended talk at any GHC yet. The talk, “Neuromorphic Computing: Introduction, Motivation, and Research Challenges,” introduced attendees to neuromorphic computing, a new type of computer architecture that’s inspired by the way the brain works. While traditional architectures include processors and memory components, the basic components of neuromorphic computers are neurons and synapses, each of which contain elements of both processing and memory. Rather than being programmed like traditional computers, neuromorphic architectures often learn or are trained to perform tasks.

Schuman presented during the artificial intelligence track, which focused on machine learning and its applications in social media, robots, and industry. This year’s conference also included new topics such as biocomputing and health, advanced distributed systems, and identity and access management.

Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) User Support Specialist Suzanne Parete-Koon presented a poster titled “Finding Meaning in Petabytes of Data,” which focused on how users might support applications on Titan, the OLCF’s flagship supercomputer. Parete-Koon explained how users can manage data, maximize their allocated time on the machines, and cross-schedule projects between Titan and Rhea, an OLCF Linux cluster used in data analysis. The OLCF is a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at ORNL.

Veronica Vergara Larrea, another OLCF user support specialist, represented ORNL at a session called Student Opportunity Lab, where students met one-on-one with national laboratory staff members, faculty members, and industry representatives. Vergara Larrea spoke at the table “The Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research: What Is Computing Research? How Can Undergraduates Participate?” Vergara Larrea gave personalized advice to students about ways they could gain research experience during their undergraduate careers.

ORNL staffers also participated in the career fair to recruit women to study and work at ORNL. “We’re putting forth a concerted effort to attract diverse talent to us, and this is a great venue for that,” Schuman said. This year the DOE laboratories stationed their career fair booths in a shared area and displayed a common banner so that students could easily identify them. Kate Carter, Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate recruiter, played a key role in this collaborative effort and manned ORNL’s booth for the majority of the event.

Because this year’s career fair spanned the length of the conference, it gave potential recruits ample opportunities to spend time with staff members from the companies and organizations represented. At the fair, potential recruits met with ORNL personnel to ask questions, interview, and form connections.

Other highlights included new networking opportunities for staff members. Amelia Fitzsimmons, postdoctoral researcher in the Scientific Computing Group at ORNL, said the opportunity to meet other professionals was one of GHC’s most beneficial aspects. “There is so much hope for networking with other women technologists through these kinds of events,” she said. Other staff members said that their roles at the conference helped broaden their networks, allowing them to create deeper connections with students and researchers.

WiC members who helped plan ORNL’s involvement in GHC this year said that one of their goals for future conferences is to include male staff members in ORNL’s representation at the event. “The conference usually has profound effects on the men that attend,” Schuman said. “It gives them new perspectives on our experiences, and they often come out being some of our greatest allies.”

Those assisting at the ORNL recruiting booth included Carter, Fitzsimmons, Parete-Koon, Schuman, Vergara Larrea, Megan Bradley, Kat Engstrom, Dionne Harper, Jarilyn Hernandez Jimenez, Ying Wai Li, Maria McClelland, Lin Mu, Sarah Powers, and Amy Rose.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit