The NCCS group leader will set the course for 2024’s biggest high-performance computing conference

Philip Roth, a group leader in the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been named the general chair of SC24, the 2024 edition of the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis.

As general chair, Roth will set the overall vision for SC24 and work with the sponsoring societies (IEEE Computer Society’s Technical Consortium on High Performance Computing and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing), the conference’s volunteer committee members, and the conference’s contractors to plan and carry out the event.

Roth has a long history with the SC series, attending all the conferences since 2000 and helping to organize them at a chair or vice chair level since 2011. He served as the executive director of SC17, a position that assists the general chair, which he’s taken on again for SC22 (November 13–18 in Dallas, TX). His participation at SC, bolstered by his computational work and team management at the NCCS, made him the winning candidate for chairing SC24.

“The most significant thing we’re looking for in candidates is experience with organizing the conference in the past. In addition, we’re looking for people who have experience running an organization, managing teams and budgets,” said Bronis R. de Supinski, chair of the SC steering committee. “The committee was impressed with Phil’s experience on these axes. He’s also done a lot of research on large-scale systems, so his research credentials are another aspect that impressed people.”

As the algorithms and performance analysis leader in the Science Engagement section of the NCCS, Roth has focused on helping scientists get the best results possible from the applications they’re running on NCCS systems. Likewise, he plans to make SC24 a beneficial experience for attendees on multiple fronts, especially in establishing professional networks within the HPC community.

“I think getting people together so they can form new connections or strengthen existing connections really pays off going forward,” Roth said. “If I can help make that environment possible, whether it’s by providing interesting content that’s going to draw people or by providing a nice environment for them to socialize in, I think I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I was really proud of.’”

Philip Roth, algorithms and performance analysis leader in the Science Engagement section of the NCCS at ORNL. Photo: Carlos Jones / ORNL

Organizing an SC conference is no small task, hence Roth’s selection years ahead of the event. His first responsibility will be to establish an executive committee composed of chairs who will organize each individual aspect of the conference, from technical programs to communications. Then, subcommittees will be established to execute those plans; in all, around 700 volunteers will organize, build out, and manage SC24. Making the job even more challenging is that SC is two events in one: it’s both a research conference and a trade show.

“SC is kind of unique in terms of research conferences. We have a large trade show associated with a top-quality research conference, so the general chair has to do the work of managing both aspects: getting that trade show to be everything people want it to be while also organizing this research conference,” said de Supinski, chief technology officer at Livermore Computing at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Few other computer science conferences are like that. Also, for computer science, research conferences are the top publication venues, and the SC conference series is the number one publication venue for work in large-scale computing.”

Beyond all of the organizational work required for a successful SC conference, Roth must also develop his own vision for SC24 to be used as a unifying theme in programming and marketing. Although it’s too early for him to reveal specific details, Roth does have some ideas brewing.

Philip Roth

Philip Roth, NCCS group leader at ORNL. Photo: Carlos Jones/ORNL

“I’m very interested in how HPC has a creative side—how we, as people who work in this area of computing, bring our creative aspects to our work,” Roth said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean art or music—a person can be creative while still working very much in an engineering or computer science or computer networking role. So, I’m interested in trying to bring out and encourage people’s creativity.”

SC24’s location will be announced in November 2023 at SC23.

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