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A Brief Q&A with SC14 Chair Trish Damkroger from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Trish Damkroger, SC14 Chair and Deputy Associate Director At-Large for Computation for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has been attending SC Conferences since 1996 and became a committee member in 2005. She has held committee positions as Infrastructure Chair, Exhibits Chair, Panels Chair, Communications Chair, Workshops Chair and multiple chair positions within Infrastructure since that time. We interviewed Trish to get her perspective on this year's SC Conference.

SC14: How do you balance being the Computation’s Deputy Associate Director and Department Head for the Computing Applications and Research Department at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with being the SC14 Chair (not to mention a mother of 2 children and 1 horse)?
Damkroger: It is all about time management and enjoying what you do. Luckily, I have an outstanding team of professionals both at LLNL and SC14. There is a wealth of knowledge from experienced SC volunteers who continue to provide their expertise year after year. The volunteers of SC are the heart of creating the thriving conference each year. My job is to keep them motivated and moving in the same direction.

SC14: What inspires you to continue to volunteer on SC for the past 10+ years?
Damkroger: My main motivation is the people of SC, both the volunteers and the attendees. Many of my co-SC committee members have become close friends who I enjoy working with from across the world. I also believe in the power of HPC. I truly believe that HPC is key to the advancement of science. Plus it is really cool stuff!

SC14: What advice can you give people coming to their first SC conference?
Damkroger: Attend a wide variety of the different pieces of the program. Each element will give you something new to think about. The tech papers will show you the latest research in HPC, posters will give you an opportunity to see and quickly learn new techniques, and a must is the exhibit floor. My first time at SC, I was blown away by the energy on the exhibit floor. It is always fun to see the latest hardware and software being showcased. And I love talking with the students.

SC14: Anything new this year, or new trends that you are noticing?
Damkroger: The convergence of big data and HPC.  Data analytics is now an expectation for HPC, which makes the distinction between different architectures disappear.

SC14: How did the theme “HPC Matters” develop, and what are you hoping to accomplish with this focus?
Damkroger: HPC is a tool that supports scientific discovery. Without HPC, we cannot achieve the scientific advances possible. The idea was to bring attention to everything that HPC contributes to. I also want to excite the next-generation to consider careers in HPC.

SC14: What are some of the most pressing issues facing HPC in general?
Damkroger: People to do the work. We are seeing a decline is CS graduates in general and diversity is another concern. Without a diverse working population, we will not get the creativity needed for the next big advances in HPC.

SC14: What are the “can’t miss” content areas at SC14?
Damkroger: I am very excited about the keynote. Of course, that is just a teaser but expect an announcement in the next month. As above, the exhibit floor gives you a great way to see HPC in action through the demonstrations and presentations. I also encourage participation in the tutorials and workshops. SC brings together the leaders in HPC, and many of those leaders teach the tutorials and lead the workshops.

SC14: What are you personally looking forward to the most at SC14?
Damkroger: The people. I can’t wait to see my friends and acquaintances from around the world who converge at SC.

SC14: For someone just starting out in their career, what advice would you offer?
Damkroger: Find something you love doing and enjoy it. I was so busy doing, I never really stopped to appreciate everything else that was going on around me.

SC14: When you first started out, who was an important mentor and why?
Damkroger: I have been lucky to have a number of thoughtful mentors. I have had technical mentors and career mentors over the years. As a woman in electrical engineering, one of my first mentors who inspired me was Pat Falcone. She demonstrated what a strong, technical female engineer could be, and how to be professional without being “one of the guys”. I always admired her quiet strength.

SC14: In a few words, describe what people coming to SC14 will experience.
Damkroger: They will experience a whirlwind of options to see the latest research in HPC, networking, storage and analysis.

Trish Damkroger, Deputy Associate Director At-Large for Computation for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is responsible for the day-to-day management of 900 employees. Before joining LLNL, she was Peregrine System’s Area Vice President for Information Technology and the Deputy Director for the Advanced and Exploratory Program at Sandia National Laboratories