At the 27th annual SC Conference yesterday in New Orleans, LA (USA), six students who are finalists for the Best paper award at SC14 spoke with 24 undergraduate students participating in the HPC for Undergraduates program. Student authors talked about both their own personal career paths as well as answering questions from the undergraduates. The best paper nominees who spoke were: Kai Ren, Ismail El-Helw, Adam T. McLaughlin, Maciej Besta, Dhairya Malhotra, and Mehmet Can Kurt.
The HPC for Undergraduates program is designed to give college sophomores and juniors the chance to attend the SC conference, and talk with graduate students and professionals about what a career in HPC might look like. They also have opportunities to attend the technical papers, invited talks, panels, and explore the SC exhibit hall. In its third year, the program is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the SC conference. The 24 students participating this year come from schools in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
One question posed by the undergraduates was, "Why should someone get a Ph.D. in Computer Science?" The graduate students all reported that their motivation for graduate school was the desire to work on challenging problems. Several reported having gone into the workforce after completing their undergraduate work and finding themselves bored with the work they were assigned.
Another question focused on how to pick a thesis advisor. Many of the students reported having worked with a couple of faculty members before finding their advisor. Several also reported that they had started graduate school working in areas such as operating systems and computer vision, but they found HPC to be more interesting due to the diverse set of problems and the excitement of working on the world's largest computers.
If you are a student interested in pursuing HPC education, there are many opportunities at SC to get an idea of what is going on in our field and advance your career; it's not too early to start planning to attend SC15 in Austin, TX (USA) next November. And of course the ACM's Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing, SIGHPC, also features a variety of activities to help students become more familiar with careers in HPC.
Jeffrey Hollingsworth is a professor of parallel programming systems in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies.
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