Computer scientists, software developers, and system administrators are coming together under one roof in the newly established Computational Sciences and Technology Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Amber Boehnlein, Jefferson Lab's chief information officer, has been promoted to associate director for computational sciences and technology, heading up the new division.
"This is a recognition that computational science is a cornerstone of the nuclear physics research that we do at Jefferson Lab," Boehnlein says. "The CST division includes a reorganization and additional staff that will strengthen the connection between computing at the lab and the other divisions, with computing as an equal partner."
The new division encompasses many of the lab's employees who specialize in information technology, including computing infrastructure, supercomputer systems, desktop support, cybersecurity, business systems, and the library. It also now brings together much of the lab's scientific computing expertise under the same umbrella.
Prior to the reorganization, the lab's expertise in scientific computing had been spread out across the lab, with some staff members working together in groups, while others worked individually on small projects. Going forward, the scientific computing team's efforts will be focused on projects that are key to the laboratory's scientific mission. These include the ongoing 12 GeV scientific program, as well as new opportunities in computational sciences both within the field of nuclear physics and in other mission areas, as well. Also, the division will now be positioned to bring to bear salient expertise in other areas, such as high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, data sciences, and quantum information.
Boehnlein is particularly well suited to helm the new division, as it sits at the intersection of bread-and-butter information technology and ultra-specialized computing. In her own career, she has often straddled the realms of both particle physics and computing. Prior to joining Jefferson Lab five years ago, she had led the Scientific Computing Applications Division at DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, where she gained expertise in computational physics relevant to light sources and large-scale databases for astrophysics, as well as overseeing hardware computing systems.
She also spent three years at the DOE's Office of High Energy Physics as program manager for the U.S. Large Hadron Collider Detector Operations program and for three Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing programs. And she gained additional experience at DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as a staff scientist responsible for computing and application support for all Fermilab-based experiments and as a member of the lab's DØ (DZero) experimental collaboration.
"My journey has given me the chance to work in multiple laboratories and to influence the interplay of scientific research and computing. The creation of this division feels like the culmination of what I have learned in each of those positions, and I'm looking forward to bringing all of that experience to bear," she says.
Boehnlein speaks well of the staff in the new Computational Sciences and Technology Division, many of whom she has managed as CIO since joining Jefferson Lab.
"I am in awe of their technical abilities, productivity, and how wonderful they are to work with. They are so open to new ideas, so creative and always, always, committed to the mission of this lab," Boehnlein says. "With the reorganization, I have no doubt that our outstanding scientific computing team will be able to grow with Jefferson Lab's needs in computing and will be influential inside Jefferson Lab and beyond."
Jefferson Lab Director Stuart Henderson agrees, and he set his expectations of the new division in his announcement to lab staff.
"We are taking this step in recognition of the growing importance of computational sciences to our ongoing scientific mission, and also in recognition of the tremendous opportunities for growth, given the national priorities in high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, data sciences, and quantum information," Henderson says. "We are well-positioned to bring our expertise to these exciting areas of research and to have an impact. Under Amber's leadership, I am confident that we will."
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