ORNL’s Ashley Barker will serve as Diachin’s deputy
By Jeremy Thomas, LLNL
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Lori Diachin will take over as director of the Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project on June 1, guiding the successful, multi-institutional high-performance computing effort through its final stages.
Diachin, who is currently the principal deputy associate director for LLNL’s Computing Directorate, has served as ECP’s deputy director since 2018. She succeeds Doug Kothe, who will join Sandia National Laboratories on June 5 to become the chief research officer and associate labs director of Sandia’s Advanced Science and Technology Division. Diachin will report to Oak Ridge National Laboratory Interim Director Jeff Smith in her new ECP capacity.
“I feel incredibly honored and humbled to be selected for this role; it is the largest computing project in DOE history and will have a tremendous impact on computational science for the next decade and beyond,” Diachin said. “We are eager and excited to show the success and impact that the applications and software technologies we have developed for the exascale systems will have on problems of national importance.”
Launched in 2016 and supported jointly by two DOE organizations — the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Science — ECP combines research, development and deployment activities across DOE, with a mission of accelerating delivery of an exascale computing ecosystem to address the most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness and national security. Over the project’s history, ECP has engaged more than 1,000 researchers in the development and documentation of next-generation computational tools and applications, which will pay dividends for DOE and the nation for many years, Diachin said.
As ECP director, Diachin will shepherd the project through to its conclusion, as the first generation of U.S. exascale supercomputers tackles numerous modeling and simulation workloads utilizing ORNL’s Frontier and Argonne National Laboratory’s, or ANL’s, Aurora supercomputers for Office of Science applications, and as LLNL’s El Capitan begins performing functions for NNSA applications in 2024.
Diachin said her top priorities will be to ensure that ECP meets its key performance parameters and to continue working with national laboratories and vendors to guarantee ECP-developed tools can demonstrate high performance on U.S. exascale systems before the project’s technical work ends in December 2023.
“We will see many new technologies in the HPC landscape over several decades, and ECP has helped lay the groundwork for that future,” Diachin said. “The applications and software developed in ECP will be critical to DOE mission areas in science, national security, economic security and more for decades to come.”
Lessons learned from ECP will be passed on to additional computational science teams in DOE, to agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and teams in U.S. industries and university HPC centers, Diachin added.
ORNL’s Ashley Barker, who was head of training and productivity for ECP before stepping down to take a more active role in procurement and deployment efforts at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, will serve as Diachin’s deputy.
Barker is deputy director for ORNL’s next large-scale procurement and head of the Operations section at ORNL’s National Center for Computational Sciences. She also led the OLCF’s User Assistance and Outreach team, a group responsible for facilitating user access to OLCF resources, including Frontier. Barker previously served as a project director for the National Climate Research Center, a partnership between NOAA and DOE, from 2014–2016 and has been with ECP since its infancy.
“I joined ECP near the beginning of the project and have witnessed firsthand how far we have come since the project was formed,” Barker said. “I look forward to taking a larger role in helping to showcase the achievements and impact our application and software technologies portfolio will have on the broader community and working together with the team to help ensure the successful completion of the project by delivering on our remaining key deliverables.”
Before joining LLNL in 2003, Diachin worked at ANL and Sandia as a research scientist focusing on numerical methods and high-performance computing. While at LLNL, Diachin has served in several leadership positions, including director of the Center for Applied Scientific Computing and department head for Information Technology. In her current principal deputy role, she advises LLNL’s Computing Associate Director Bruce Hendrickson, as well as division leaders and institute directors, on strategies to develop and sustain critical computer and computational capabilities.
Diachin also served as a principal investigator in DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research program starting in the mid-1990s, including serving as a project lead for DOE’s Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing program from 2001–2018. Prior to joining ECP, she served in program leadership roles in the DOE Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation program from 2009-2011 and as the director of DOE’s HPC4EnergyInnovation program from 2016–2018.
As deputy director of ECP, Diachin aided Kothe in setting the strategic direction for the project and ensuring the project met its goals and objectives. Diachin thanked Kothe for “his tireless efforts over the past 7 years” and praised him as an “outstanding leader for ECP.”
“[Kothe’s] leadership in ECP’s application development portfolio, and later leading the project as a whole, have positioned this first-of-its-kind project to be tremendously successful,” Diachin said. “The DOE community owes him, and the original ECP director who guided this project from a concept into reality, Paul Messina, a large debt of gratitude for their leadership and service.”